Friday, May 31, 2013

The Hiatus

Hello Fans!

This blog is going to be a mixture of personal and business, as well as being pretty lengthy. As you know, The Art of Encouragement is very dear to me and is something that I have poured my heart into for many years. So really, whenever we talk TAOE, we are talking personal. I want to thank you for standing along side of me in this journey. Can you believe we are moving into our 6th Christmas? I can hardly believe it myself!

Well, here it goes...

As I'm sure you remember, we were MOTIVATED and ready to start off a record breaking 2013 as soon as we woke up on December 26th. We released plans for our first ever cookbook and even set up an appointment with a non-profit lawyer to get the ball rolling on applying with the IRS for non-profit status (FINALLY, you will soon be able to write off those donations).

Let's start with the cookbook. The idea came from one of my favorite ladies ever. My Aunt Peggy loved her cookbooks and had more of them than anyone I've ever known. She had organized a cookbook fundraiser for her church and raised over $1000. Seeing as how that is how much it costs us to send 10,000 cards, she had me talked into it immediately. She told me all of the tips and tricks that she had learned along the way and had me excited to get back home and share the news with all of you. She always had a way of getting me excited about TAOE like it was our first year all over again. Sure enough, that weekend we tackled our 3rd year of airport outreach, made it through the Christmas holiday, and on the 28th I released a blog sharing my excitement about the cookbook.

2 days later, I lost my Aunt Peggy

Breast cancer stole her away, and I can't say I didn't know it was coming. When I'd hugged her less than 10 days before, I knew it would probably be the last time, but I didn't want to believe it, and I truly didn't think that I'd be getting that call in less than 10 days. I didn't just lose my aunt, or one of my best friends, I lost one of TAOE's most loyal supports. I lost a women who continually pushed the sweet old ladies in her Sunday School class to give a few dollars and sign a few cards. She took TAOE to her volunteer club and persuaded them to choose TAOE as one of their projects for the year. Each year I'd come to visit and we'd spend the days screening all of the cards she'd had people sign (over 1,000 each time), and then she'd hand me a check for all that she'd collected over the year, each year growing from the last. She lost the use of her entire right arm, but that didn't keep her from signing. She joked "I finally know why God made me left handed." I laughed at that, at the time, but she truly thought that. In her heart, she was left handed that day to bless me, to bless TAOE, and to bless a veteran with each card she signed. She was sick, she was tired, and she was in pain... but she never quit. She never even complained. I sure could take a note from her book. My Aunt Peggy didn't just support TAOE, but she supported ME. There are times when organizing how to get the cards and the money together, getting them screened, calling facilities, boxing cards, and filling up every post office drop box in a 10 mile radius of your house can be exhausting. There are times when I'm not sure I can do it another year, but she always reminded me that TAOE was not my own. She knew that TAOE was a calling from God, and He would always find a way to give me that extra push I needed to get it all done. She was often that extra push.

I continued to take submissions for the cookbook, but when I started to put it together, I just couldn't do it. It hurt too much and it took too much energy to try and not hurt. I met with the non-profit lawyer, started to make some really big strides in the paperwork, and then had ZERO energy to push through and complete it.

Energy, let's go with that next. In every heartache, there is a blessing. My sweet husband and I found out in late January that we are going to have our first baby! We've since found out that it is a little boy, and we are going to name him Lucas Allen. We couldn't be more thrilled! When I first found out, I was over the moon and couldn't wait for my husband to get home. I immediately downloaded an app to try and calculate when I would be due, and suddenly felt as if I'd been hit by a ton of bricks. If you don't know much about pregnancy it's calculated based on your last cycle and your due date is 40 weeks from that time. The beginning of my pregnancy started December 29th. One day before I lost my dear Aunt Peggy. I didn't know whether to smile and thank God knowing that He had exchanged a life that was so dear to me for another that would also be, or be utterly heartbroken that she would never meet my children or that I couldn't call her that second and tell her. Excitement and thanksgiving soon won over my heart, but part of me continued to ache by the lack of her presense. It still does, actually, and probably always will.

So with feeling like a part of my usual TAOE 'experience and encouragment' is missing, and having a sweet little baby sucking a large portion of my energy, I haven't quite been on my game the last 5 months.  I never stop thinking of TAOE, but the motivation to press forward has just not been there. I want to apologize for the haitus I have taken. This organization can not function without all of the wonderful volunteers (that's YOU!) who are willing to take the time and effort to give a piece of yourself. That piece of you, no matter how large or small, is a part of a larger picture. A picture of 10,000 American Veterans who know they are appreicated and not forgotten on Christmas Day (or ever). A picture of active duty men and women, travelling through DFW, who get a Christmas card reminding them that they are appreciated. A picture of a hero who has lost hope, but is reminded by your letters that they are appreciated for their sacrifices.  I owe you my sincerest apology that my piece has been missing from that picture, so far, this year. You all deserve better, and I'm hear to tell you that better I will strive to be!

My husband and I closed on our first home last week, and that means that TAOE 'headquarters" (both our storage and the office) are in the process of being moved. Once we are all settled in, I am back to hitting the pavement and getting things done! Will this year be different? Absolutely. Peggy will not be a large part of our card collection and fundraising, but you can be! I will be having a baby during our PRIME TIME, but I won't let that stop me. In fact, I still have plans of finally breaking our 10,000 card mark and adding at least another 1,000 to the card count. I have an amazing family and support system that will help me every step of the way, and I look forward to teaching little Lucas all about TAOE and the men and women who have sacrificed on our behalf to give us freedom. Afterall, he will need the passion to run this for me one day ;)

Thank you for being patient with me through this time. I appreciate your prayer and continued support, and I'm here to tell you I'm back and better than ever. Who's ready to get the 2013 card count started?!

Happy Signing Ya'll!

Ashley Fuhr
Founder of The Art of Encouragement

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Cookbook Fundraiser 2013

You heard correctly, we're making a cookbook!

*Cookbooks are currently on hold due to some personal circumstances. Those who have ordered will be notified once they've been completed*
We took a vote on our Facebook page, and we are going to accept any type of recipes for our first annual cookbook. This cookbook will be a fundraiser for The Art of Encouragement. If you'd like to know what your money will be used for, please visit our Breakdown Blog Post

Annual Cookbook Cost and Fees
Cost of our Annual Cookbook - $10.
Submitting a Recipe - Your first recipe is FREE.
Each additional recipe will cost $2.

We will be taking recipes through February 2nd. Cookbooks will be available for pickup/delivery by the end of February.
*Cookbooks are currently on hold due to some personal circumstances. Those who have ordered will be notified once they've been completed* If you would like your cookbook mailed to you, an additional fee will be added for shipping.
Unless you prefer to pay with check or cash, you will be invoiced via paypal.

If you'd like to reserve your cookbook(s), please email the following information to
  1. Your name
  2. Your full address (for shipping)
  3. Number of cookbooks
  4. How you would like to pay.

If you'd like to submit a recipe, please email the following information to
  1. Your complete recipe
  2. Your name
  3. Your city and state
  4. If you are in any way related to a military member, please provide your relation, their name, their rank, and their branch of service. Multiple family members may be provided (up to 5).
    Please relay any pertinent information (for example, if the military member is retired, depolyed, deceased, etc,)
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask. We're hoping for a lot of support on this new project, so please consider sharing this with your friends.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait to try some of these recipes! Thank you for your willingness to help us honor those who have given the gift of freedom.

God Bless You,

Ashley Hyde-Fuhr
Founder of The Art of Encouragement

The Helpful Hint

What Can You Do to Give Back to a Veteran?

The Art of Encouragement’s purpose is to spread a little Christmas cheer and encouragement to the men and women who have so bravely sacrificed to keep our country free. Many of our nation’s heroes are bound to VA hospitals and state nursing facilities during the holiday season. It is our hope that a hand-written Christmas card will brighten their day and help them to remember the spirit of the season. Help us send over 10,000 Christmas cards to veterans who may not receive anything else during the holiday season. We also visit DFW aiport, once a year, distribute cards to military members who are traveling during the holiday.

While collecting Christmas cards throughout the year, we also send encouragement packages to heroes who may need a little help. We want to ensure that every hero knows they are appreciated and that their sacrifices will never be forgotten.

Many of you have been asking how you can help get this year's card count off to a great start. Our largest need is always signed cards, so swing by your local store to get some Christmas cards on clearance! Everything you need to know should be below, but you if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to shoot us an email. If you'd simply like to make a donation to help us buy and distribute cards, please click the DONATE button below.

Please remember that all veterans are located on U.S. soil, and veterans of all ages and all wars may receive your Christmas cards. Please be sensitive to the varying conditions of the veterans and avoid writing “Get Well” in your cards.

What Do I Write In My Cards?
1. Genuinely thank the veteran for their service and sacrifice to our country.
(Please write AT LEAST two sentences.)
2. Sign your name
3. Write what city and state you are from
4. Anything extra you would like to add is great. The veterans love to hear that someone is thinking about them during the holiday season.
5. Place your card in an UNSEALED envelope.
(all cards are screened for appropriate content before being sent to a veteran)

·         Thank you for your service to our country. Your sacrifices are truly appreciated and will never be forgotten. Merry Christmas! (Name, City, and State)
·         Your sacrifice to our country is a true inspiration. We owe you a debt that we can never repay. Thank you for your service. (Name, City, and State)
·         Your heroism is the reason that we celebrate the holiday season in freedom. Thank you for your service. Merry Christmas! (Name, City, and State)

When Are My Cards Due?
We accept cards all year long! If we do not receive your cards in time for the coming Christmas, they will simply be used for the next Christmas.
Please send cards to:
PO BOX 12922
Oklahoma City, OK 73157

How Can I Find Out More About The Art of Encouragement?
You can find out more about us on our website or our Facebook:
Or send us an email at

Freedom is not free, and we hope to make sure that EVERY veteran hears the words "Thank You" at least once in their lifetime.
Cards WITHOUT a genuine thank you will NOT be accepted.


Monday, November 26, 2012

The Birthday Wish

Hey Guys!

Ashley here (as always). Today is my birthday and I am up calling the first veteran facilities of the year. Each year I get so excited for this day, but by tomorrow I will have given out all of the cards that we worked all year to sign. Unfortunately, there will still be facilities on my list that I didn't get to call. I am always hit with a bit of sadness that I think will linger until I am able to leave messages at all of the facilities in our nation. Luckily, I'm also so overjoyed at what we have accomplished! 10,000 cards for the last two years! We're only at 8,925 right now, but we will get to 10,000 again this year. I'm sure of it! That is 10,000 lives that we have the ability to change, and I'm so greatful for your help.

We were blessed by a huge donation from the Giamportone's this year. A gift of $1000. That will send ALL of this year's cards, and I we couldn't be more appreciative of these friends.

I have had a few friends, family, and volunteers ask what I want for my birthday. The Art of Encouragement is my passion and all I can ask for is your support. Each year, so many of you fight the crowds the day after Christmas to buy the clearance Christmas cards, you spend the year signing them until the holidays roll around again. Then you fight the crowd at the post office to send your cards my way, and even slip a $20 bill in the package to help send the cards off again.

I'm so greatful for YOU this holiday season. YOU have helped this dream become a reality. YOU have made it what it is today.

So, for my birthday, I'm asking for your help...again

For my birthday, I ask that you swing by the closest store, buy a box of Christmas cards and sign them.
It probably won't make it to this year's card count, but I really am determined to make it to 12,000 next year. I WILL call every facility someday!

For my birthday, I ask that, if you don't want to send signed cards, that you click the donate button below and give $10.
Do you know what your $10 can do? It can send 100 cards to our veterans. It can help pay for the plane ticket of a lovely young photographer who takes the time out of her busy holiday schedule to shoot pictures of us passing out cards to veterans at the airport. It can send an envelope full of encouraging letters to a hero who may think that no one cares about what he went through. It can fill up my gas tank so I can drive to the boonies to shake a dying hero's hand and let him know he's not forgotten. It can print inserts and business cards so when someone asks why I'm buying 2 carts fulls of cards after Christmas, I can tell them who we are and give them something to remember us by. It can also help buy those cart fulls of Christmas cards. =)

Please, if you're reading this, I ask that you promise to buy a box of cards and sign them, or donate $10. This dream is going to continue to grow, but I can't do it without you. For my birthday, I just wish for your help.

Thank you and have a wonderful holiday season,
Ashley Hyde-Fuhr
Founder of The Art of Encouragment

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The August 2012 Hero of the Month - Dennis Hall

Our August Hero of the Month is 63 year old Dennis Hall. Mr. Hall is a Vietnam Veteran who has terminal cancer (believed to be a result of his exposure to chemicals during the war). Doctor's have given Dennis less than a year to live, and he has one goal he'd like to achieved before he leaves this life. He and his daughter plan to take a pilgrimage to the Vietnam War Memorial, in Washington D.C., at the end of this month.

Mr. Hall is from the small town of Bridgeport, Oklahoma. His community held a garage and bake sale this weekend to help raise funds to make sure Dennis gets his last wish. He wants to make the trip in order to honor the friends he lost while in Vietnam."I think my life will be complete", Dennis said "It has been a dream of mine for a long time."
We are happy to announce that this fundraiser not only raised enough money to send Dennis on his trip, but it will also help with his final arrangements, ones fit for a true hero.

Dennis has trouble standing because of his illness, but this Fourth of July he insisted on standing with the American Flag during a community tribute and parade. When talking about his illness, Mr. Hall said he'd do it all again to serve his country.

Hall married his wife after returning from Vietnam. They have been married for 40 wonderful years and have 2 children. The Hall's are known in their community as some of the most giving individuals around. They took in over 4 other children, over the years, out of the goodness of their hearts. Those that know them said they have done without so that they could give all they could for others. We are so happy the community has rallied around them to help grant Dennis' last wish.
We would like to send Dennis on of our encouragement packages for his trip to Washington D.C. We have to get this one out quick, so please take a few moments to write a letter to Dennis. Let him know you are grateful for his service and continued sacrifice, tell him what freedoms you're thankful for, and tell him a little bit about yourself. Many of our Vietnam veterans have never been told "Thank You" for the sacrifices they have made (and continue to make). PLEASE help us thank this hero. We're hoping to have over 50 letters, along with some travel essentials. If you'd like to help fund this package, please click the donate button on the right side of this page.

Please email your letters to by August 24th, 2012 (at 8am central time) to ensure we get the package to Mr. Hall before his big adventure.

God Bless you for your time. We couldn't honor our heroes without your help!

Ashley Hyde-Fuhr
Founder of The Art of Encouragement

For up to date info, visit us on facebook!

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Annual Breakdown

I've had a lot of people ask how much it costs to run The Art of Encouragement, lately. Honestly, each year is different, and it depends on how many cards we send, how many encouragement packages we send, how many events we do, and the general cost of "stuff" that year.

The following is a general breakdown of our average yearly costs

Cards average $0.10 each to send. That's $1,000 to send 10,000 cards to our veterans each Christmas.
TOTAL = $1,000

Encouragement packages average $20 each to produce and send. We average around 6 each year, adding up to $120.
TOTAL = $1000 + $120 = $1120

Each of our cards includes an insert explaining our mission and how to contact us. 10,000 inserts costs an average of $300, before shipping costs. Shipping for each shipment averages $15, equaling $30.
TOTAL = $1120 + $300 +$30 = $1,450

Each month we spend $5 on our website. We are now in the process of building a new website that will up the costs until we are able to full transition over. For the next year we will avearage $10 a month, totaling $120.
TOTAL = $1450 + $120 = $1,570

We spend an avereage of $300 in gas to travel to and from our events, that take place all over Oklahoma (and occasionally in other states!)
TOTAL = $1570 + $300 = $1,870

For the Christmas of 2011, two volunteers and one volunteer photographer traveled to DFW airport to pass out cards to our heroes traveling in uniform. With taxes and fees, the airline tickets of the 3 volunteers cost $425
TOTAL = $1870 + $425 = $2,295

For the last two years, we have signed our way through 10,000 cards. Our first year, we had a sizeable donation of cards, but we did not receive that last year. Because of this, we had to purchase new cards to help keep our stock up. $200 (We were so lucky to get a STEAL on the cards after Christmas!)
TOTAL = $2295 + 200 = $2,495

There are also quite a few little things that many may not think about, including waterproof totes to house our cards ($150 was spent over the last two years), rubberbands to help sort the cards, ($25 each year), paper and ink to print flyers, instructions sheets, and letters to our facilities ($150 each year), thank you cards to our donors ($20 a year), and pens to take to signing events ($30 a year).
TOTAL = $2495 + $150 + $25 + $150 + $20 + $30 = $2,670.

Also, new to TAOE this year, we gave a cash scholarship that was selected based on the outstanding service of a young women competing in the Miss Altus (Oklahoma) Scholarship Pageant. The Art of Encouragement was created in Altus (while I was the reigning Miss Altus), and the town embraced my passion and made it a reality. Without the support of that wonderful community, we would have not been able to successfully reach so many about the mission of TAOE. As founder, I feel it is important to not only support the community that so humbly supported us, but to fuel the giving and volunteering of other young people, in order to make our world a better place. I personally donated $100 dollars and so did my best friend, Rachel Newton. Together, we were able to give a $200 cash college scholarship named after The Art of Encouragment that promotes the act of community service. While this doesn't technically add to our total, we like to let you know about the things we support in TAOE's name.

Please keep in mind that this is an average annual cost for us. These are things that we are guaranteed to spend money on each year. Inevitably, we tend to spend more than this becuase of other little things that come up throughout the year. This year we also bought furniture for a new TAOE office, and we are finally going to be able to file nationally for our non-profit status with the IRS. The filing cost for a non-profit can cost anywhere from $500-$1,000 depending on the specifics of your non-profit, and this does not include the amount we will pay both lawyers and CPAs to file the different portions to different state and federal agencies.
We also hope to send at least 2,000 more cards this year than we have the last two. This will up our costs a few hundred extra dollars, but we will find a way to make it happen!

We always strive to be completely transparent with our volunteers, supporters, and friends. We want you to know where your time and money is being invested. If you have any questions about our annual breakdown, please ask! Thank you for believing in what we do and for helping us honor those who have given us the gift of freedom.

God Bless!

Ashley Hyde-Fuhr

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The FEBRUARY Hero of the Month - Ashley Jones

Wow. I'm bursting to tell you about February's Hero of the Month!

Everyone, Meet Specialist Ashley Jones!
SPC Ashley Jones was raised in the small town of Cleveland, Oklahoma where only 3,200 people reside (CAN WE GET HER SOME LOVE, OKLAHOMA?!). Jones was 17 years old when she chose to join the Oklahoma Army National Guard in order to help aid with her college costs. After her first semester at Tulsa Community College, the call came for Jones to prepare for deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Jones is assigned to Company C, 700 Brigade Support Battalion, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (or IBCT),  as a combat medic. She often traveled on convoys to provide medical support. She recently was involved in a firefight and earned the Combat Medic Badge for being engaged by the enemy and continuing to treat a fellow Soldier.

Shortly after, on December 18, 2011, Jones' convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED). She broke her back and pelvis in the attack, and doctors were forced to amputate her right foot above the ankle. This made her the first amputee in the 45th IBCT.

Below, is a picture of Ashley receiving her Purple Heart

Ashley is loved by everyone in the 45th and was nominated for HERO OF THE MONTH by a fellow soldier. Below, she is laughing with some of her friends from the 45th.

Ashley has a vivacious sense of humor and is always laughing. We'd like to thank Ashley for her service and sacrifice to our country by overwhelming her with thank you letters from around the world.

As always, if you're a friend or family member of Ashley's, please help us ensure that this encouragement package comes as a SURPRISE! That's right, you have to keep a secret! =)

Well, you guys know the drill! Please send your letters to

We are now taking letters until February 29th at 10pm, but don't delay! The sooner we have the letters, the better!
If you'd like to help with the cost of our Hero of the Month Program (includes printing, shipping, and the goodies inside each package) Please follow the link below. Thank you!

Jones with friends from the 45th IBCT.