Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Reason

I had the privilege of speaking to a new American about The Art of Encouragement the other day. As a military brat, I've spent my entire 23 years bleeding red, white, and blue. This conversation truly moved me; I realized how often Americans take for granted their freedom.

I was signing some Christmas cards in my free time and she asked "What are those cards for? Isn't it past Christmas?"

I replied with my usual short info-mmerical about The Art of Encouragement.

"Oh, so you get paid to do it. I see"

"No, no, no." I replied. "I do this for free. It's volunteer work"

"Why would you spend so much time doing that....for people you don't even know?" She asked me


"Because I want to give back to the men and women who have given me my freedom.  America didn't just become a free nation and stay that way. The reason that you and I can pick our jobs, live where we want to, shop with our friends, walk down the street...that is all because of the men and women who have served in the American military. They have defended our country against anyone who wishes to try to harm us or take our freedom away, and done so successfully. Without them, we would not get to do a lot of the things we do everyday."

"And they still do this now?"

"Yes. Everyday their are thousands and thousands of servicemen and women defending our country. Not just here in America, but all over the world."

"I guess I never really knew there were so many of them"

"Yep. So that's why I write these cards. Some of them are in hospitals or retirement homes at Christmas, and many of them don't have family or are unable to spend the holidays with their loved ones. I send a card so that they know someone is thinking about them at Christmas, even if they are alone. It's also a really easy way to say "THANK YOU" for all of the freedoms we get to enjoy because of them.


It wasn't the most profound conversation, but I got the message across. I'm not sure how long this women has lived in the United States, but I do know she has been a citizen for less than 6 months. She didn't grow up learning the history that is so ingrained within the average American. She is just now getting to hear the stories and learn the history of this great country, and she can now call it her own.
She didn't say much, but I could tell by the look in her eyes that a lightbulb had gone off.  Though I know she appreciates the freedom of America for her own reasons, she now appreciates it for a whole new reason.

Which leads me to the "REASON" for this blog. Why do we do what we do? What is the reason?

If you have ever taken the time to stop a veteran who is proudly wearing their hat in the local WalMart, or shaken the hand of a soldier in uniform, you already know the answer to this question.
Why do we do what we do?
The genuine look of astonishment, thankfulness, and pride that you see in the eyes of a military service member when you shake their hand and say thank you is undescribable. Our hope is that we would be able to stir that same emotion within each veteran that receives a card, package, or letter from us.

Why? So that every hero is thanked
Why? So that every hero knows that they are GENUINELY appreciated
Why? So they know their sacrifices were not made in vain
Why? So we can give back to those that have ensured our freedom
Why? So that we may have the chance to say thank you

Thanks for taking the time to read our blog! Don't forget to nominate your "HERO OF THE MONTH" for February. Nominations are due by January 31st at 11:59pm.

Ashley Hyde
Founder of The Art of Encouragement

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Frame

Hello Fans!

Founder Ashley Hyde has started hand designing unique frames to sell in order to fundraise for The Art of Encouragement.

The following frames are all 8x10 in dimension, but hold a 5x7 photo.
Pink Swirl Frame - $20

Green and Black Floral Frame - $20

Solid Purple Frame - $20

(Ashley can also create frames that hold a 8x10 photo. These are $30 each.)

All frames can be made both vertically and horizontally. They make great gifts for any occasion. We will post more designs as they are made available. We just wanted to share this unique gift with you! It would make a great addition to any home/room/office.

Follow the link for Ashley's Designs:

Happy Shopping and Happy Supporting!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Hero of the Month

Hello Everyone!

In honor of reaching 1,000 fans on our facebook page yesterday, we have decided to add a new tradition to The Art of Encouragement.
In 2010, we added our Airport Outreach (Click HERE to read more).
This year, we are going to send surprise Encouragement packages to our country's heroes.  We sent two of these packages last year, and we have decided to send one package a month to our "Hero of the Month".

Our inspiration came from this great paper we found at Mardel yesterday!
After selecting a hero (either past or present military personnel), we sill send out a request for encouragement. People around the world will email us encouraging notes and letters addressed to our selected hero. We will print these encouraging notes on the paper above, and send them to our hero. Hopefully we will be able to help our nation's heroes through some tough times.

Last year we sent an encourgement pacakge to Mr. Eldon Box. Eldon was a two time P.O.W. who was diagnosed with cancer due to his exposure to Agent Orange. Eldon had to leave his home in Oklahoma and spend an extensive amount of time in a specialty hosptial, undergoing multiple treatments for his cancer. Eldon had never heard the words "thank you" (for his many sacrifies during his years of service to our country) until a couple of years prior to TAOE hearing about his story. We sent Eldon pages and pages of "thank you" messages from people around the country.

Do you have a hero in mind that needs some encouragement?

We are now taking nominations for our first official Hero of the Month.
Please email us their story and why you thing we should choose them as our Hero of the Month. Please keep all nominations 750 words or less :

Nominations for February are due JANUARY 31st!!! Don't Delay!

Please leave your contact information and put "HERO OF THE MONTH" in the subject line.
Please include info like name, hometown, age, name of family members, and a picture if possible. We want to know as much as we can!
(If your nomination is not chosen this month, it will be placed in the running for next month, for your convenience. We will contact you prior to selecting your hero to make sure your nomination is still relevent at the time of selection.)
Nominations will be taken all year long. The month in which you nominate will qualify you for the following month's selection.

After reading the nominations, we will allow our facebook fans to vote on their favorite story.

Good luck and happy nominating!

Ashley Hyde
Founder of The Art of Encouragement

Want to help cover the shipping of our Hero of the Month packages? Donate to TAOE via the button below. You just need a credit or debit card!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Day

Now that things have calmed down a bit, I can share with you about Ashley Hyde Day!

January 12, 2011 was officially declared Ashley Hyde Day in Oklahoma County.

I met County Commissioner Brian Maughan (District 2) at our Miss Oklahoma City card signing party. He, along with Commisioner Ray Vaughn (District 3), wrote a proclamation declaring the day. Here's a cell phone picture of the actual resolution.
I was honored to be invited to the weekly Commissioner meeting to hear my resolution read and passed. I was able to speak with those in attendence about what The Art of Encouragement is and what our goals are for the immediate and extended future. Here's a (not so great) picture of me with the Oklahoma County Commissioners

(Ray Vaughn/District 3, Me, Willa Johnson/District 1, and Brian Maughan/District 2)

After my exciting meeting with the County Commissioners, I was suppossed to be a guest on News Channel 9 @ 4 with Lauren Nelson and Christina Eckert, but their show had some last minute additions and I was bumped to Thursday. I went in on Thursday and did a quick interview with Christina and Amanda Taylor. They were wonderfully kind and made me feel good about the interview even though I felt like I did poorly. Luckily, we were able to get the word out there about TAOE and I've already received a few responses from people who saw the show. News 9 was even kind enough to share our website via their own, and share a few of our pictures on air.

While my TAOE activities for Ashley Hyde were over, I had one last bit of excitement. Last May I taped an episode of TLC's Toddlers and Tiaras here in Oklahoma City. By some coincidence, the episode just happened to air on "Ashley Hyde Day". I enjoyed the show with some of my close friends, and we did plenty of laughing at my expense. What are the odds I'd make it on national television on "Ashley Hyde Day"?
Too bad I was talking about glitz pageants and not The Art of Encouragement! Maybe next time ; )

Ashley Hyde
Founder of The Art of Encouragement

To help us raise $2,000 to send 20.000 cards, please click the donate button below!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Resolutions

res·o·lu·tion [ rèzzə loosh'n ] (n) - a firm decision to do something

We've got a few "resolutions" for 2011 and we wanted to take the time to share them with you!

Each of our goals for this year has one thing that unifies them, and that is YOU! We can definitely use your help to ensure that we achieve each of our goals. If you can help us with any of these, please feel free to contact us! We'd love to talk with you about a route to making ideas become a reality.

1. Recieve blank cards
Well, we can definitely take one of our goals off of the list already! We recieved a donation of 25,000+ cards from a local walmart. For more details check out our last blog : THE DONATION

2. Publicity, publicity, publicity!
With so many cards to get signed, we need to up our exposure! The best way to spread the word is with YOUR help. Send out an email with our website, blog, and facebook page attached, or just take a few minutes to suggest our facebook fan page to some of your facebook friends! A few minutes of your time can helps us tremendously!
Our publicity for the year is off to a great start! Our founder has received a local award called the "Diffee Difference Maker Award", sponsored by Diffee Ford Lincoln Mercury in El Reno, OK and WWLS - The Sports Animal. The Oklahoma County commissioners are also in the process of writing a proclamation to name a day after Ashley. January 12th will officially be "Ashley Hyde Day" in Oklahoma County.

3. Perhaps our largest goal for 2011 is to obtain our 501(c)3 nonprofit status.  There is a lot of paperwork and specifics that go into this process. We are currently looking for a lawyer that would like to help us tackle this process and make it happen!

4. Our next goal is to obtain an office space here in OKC. We'd like an office space to work from so we can be more available to our loyal volunteers. We often have people that want to pick up, drop off, or just come by and sign cards. We've been lucky enough to find a supportive staff at a local storage unit, and we are currently keeping all of our cards there. (If you need some storage, go see Randy at American Self Storage - 7801 W Hefner Road!)

5. Our biggest NEED for the year is funds. We are still establishing availability of time and resources in order to nail down a concrete goal for 2011. We do know that our goal will be, AT LEAST, 20,000. This means it will cost an estimated $2,000 just to send the cards that we receive. We also need funds to purchase our card inserts, advertising, storage, weather resistant totes, and supplies for our card parties (instruction sheets, pens, decor, fuel, etc.)

These five resolutions lead up to the one big goal that I know many of you have been waiting for! How many cards are we going to send this year? Well, we know that we would like to double 2010 and aim for 20,000. We learned a lot in our quest for 10,000 cards last year, and we are trying to set an attainable, and somewhat organized goal. We are also continuing to contact facilities in order to estimate how many we will need to cover a certain number of states/facilities. So, for now, lets press on towards 20,000! That means you! Get out those cards and start signing. With a goal of 20,000 in our sights, we need to start now!
This year's deadline is going to be on November 1st instead of December 1st. That leaves 298 days to sign cards at 68 cards a day!

One down and four to go! Let us know if you'd like to help.
Thank you for your generousity and support. We couldn't continue this journey without you!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Donation

Wow! Yesterday was such a whirlwind of excitement for those of us here at TAOE!

I guess I should start this story from the beginning. I had to pick up a few things from Walmart (NW Expressway and Council in OKC) on Thursday. I happened to run into the manager, and asked if they would be willing to donate some cards. He was a new manager, so he relayed me to one of his assistant managers named Lynnette.
Lynnette looked frazzled when I approached her, and she soon let me know why. The district manager was in the store that day, and they were trying to make everything perfect. Lynnette told me that they'd love to donate, but today was a hectic day for them. She promised to sort through some cards and have them boxed and ready for me at 11am the next day. She told me to find someone with a headset and to page her when I arrived.
PERFECT! How easy was that? It can be pretty hard to get donations from big stores, so I was happy if they were willing to give 5 free boxes of cards. Its more than we had!

The next day at 11am, I found someone with a headset and paged Lynnette. She was busy, so she told the women helping me what to do. I was led back to the garden center (where all of the holiday decor is) and told to pick out whichever gift cards I liked. I stared back at the lady confused and asked "Does she just want to put money on a card and have me buy the Christmas cards?" The lady laughed and said "OH! Now I'm the one confused. So you want Christmas cards, not Christmas gift cards?" 
She lead me over to the Christmas cards and said "Which ones do you want?"
"How many can I have?" I asked
"Whichever ones you want, I guess"
"I'll take all of them!"
"Let me double check with Lynnette first."

She called Lynnette and after a few minutes of chatting she came back over and told me that since they had gone 75% off that day and they still had so many left, Lynnette didn't think they'd sell many more, and I was welcome to take everything they had left..... So I did!
It took 3 hours to get everything off of the shelves and scanned. You should see my receipts! We scanned so many items that we maxed out the register and had to break it up into 3 separate transactions!
Above is the picture of nearly all the cards Walmart donated. There was one more cart full than what this picture shows. You are looking at 1,681 total boxes of cards. We haven't done a specific count  yet, but we're estimating about 25,000+ cards! If you were to walk into a store and buy these at full price, you would have spent $10,644.28! THANK YOU WALMART!

If you'd like to help us in thanking this walmart (and it's generous managers) please send a thank you card to:
The Art of Encouragement
P.O. Box 12922
Oklahoma City, OK 73157

We will place all of the thank you cards together and present them to the staff on January 12th.

We also had some amazing volunteers who helped haul all of these cards away. We filled up an F-150, a Trail Blazer, and a Malibu! Above is the F-150, packed to the brim. This volunteer actually counted how many cards he hauled away.....12,955! And that's just one vehicle! Thanks to Lee Fuhr and the Qualls family for stopping everything and helping out yesterday!

What a great way to start off the new year! The Art of Encouragement will definately be busy signing cards this year! The one downside to having so many cards, is the amount of money it costs to send them all. Please consider donating to The Art of Encouragement. You can give any time of year! Just click the DONATE button below!

Happy New Year Everyone! It is going to be a great year! Thank you for supporting us as we start the journey to our fourth Christmas! God Bless!

Ashley Hyde
Founder of The Art of Encouragement