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'Addiction' drives octogenarians to Martin Center


'Card Crusaders' cut and fold their way to $12,437

Brentwood Home Page
In just five months, a small group of women – mostly octogenarians – have netted $12,437 making handmade greeting cards. “That’s clear money for us. And that’s before we got a big order yesterday,” said Marilyn Nevens, 87, the group’s ringleader.

All of the money is going to help buy a much-needed 24-seat passenger van for the Fifty-Forward Martin Center. The center is a nonprofit committed to enriching the lives of active adults age 50 and older. Programs and services include health and fitness, lifelong learning, recreation, arts, travel and community service.
"Head Card Crusader" Marilyn Nevens works on a greeting card on Feb. 22 at the Martin Center.

Brentwood Home Page first introduced these ladies to readers before Christmas, when they had their hands full creating holiday cards. Now the “Card Crusaders” are up to 38 designs for all occasions. Today they work an average three days a week, six to seven hours each day on the cards, all in their quest to secure transportation for the center’s many field trips.

“We don’t get paid,” says Ethel Buehler, 86.

“But look at the satisfaction you get out of it,” 88-year-old Beverly Kamen countered.

At 70, Judy Davis is the “baby” of the group. She called the Dutch craft of paper-folded cards addictive. She is the official paper cutter and can cut out 24 cards in about two hours.

Nevens hasn’t given up on finding a benefactor for the bus fund, either. She’s already written letters to Ford Motor Company, Oprah and Ellen. Next up is Dolly Parton, a Brentwood resident who qualifies for Martin Center membership. They would probably give her a free one if she were to make a contribution or place a big card order.

Calvary Church which meets at the Heritage Way center has been a great customer and placed several large orders for cards custom-designed with the church’s dove logo.

“It wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for these girls,” Nevens said, looking around the lunch table during a quick break in the action last Thursday.  

“It takes a village,” Davis added.

And it’s become an obsession. “My friends think I have a job,” said Nevens, who regularly turns down opportunities to do other things so she can make cards, write letters and spread the word about her mission.

Nevens spoke to the Cool Springs Rotary Club about the center’s desperate need for a second and bigger bus and received a $500 donation. She says she would be happy to come speak to any civic group who wants to hear their story.

The cards are now being sold in the McKendree Village retirement community’s gift shop in Hermitage. They would love to find other retail shops willing to sell the cards – “but who don’t want to charge us anything,” Kamen said. Some of the shops they’ve approached have wanted a big cut in their profit, which doesn’t help the bus fund.

Each card takes a minimum of an hour to produce. They sell for $4 a card. Which makes the total amount of money raised in such a short time all the more impressive.

Sherry Coss, the center's programming director, is dumfounded by the women's tenanciousness. "Their hearts are so full about giving back to the Martin Center. And there are members who will benefit from all their work who may never buy a card."

Last week Coss learned that the Martin Center has made it to the second phase in a TDOT grant program that hopefully will help purchase the bus. But even if it makes the final cut, the center must match a portion of the cost, which is estimated between $60,000 and $65,000

Cards are available at the Martin Center, 960 Heritage Way, during its regular hours – 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays. To place special orders, call 376-0102. Donations can be made directly to Project Transportation by sending a check made payable to FiftyForward Martin Center, with Project Transportation in the memo line. Credit Card donations can be accepted over the phone, Coss said.

“It’s a dream of mine that in my lifetime I can ride in a bus from here,” Nevens said. "And others can long after I am gone."

For more information on the Martin Center, click here.

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