- Associated Press - Monday, October 12, 2015

WINONA, Minn. (AP) - What started as a relaxing hobby for a few Winona-area women has now turned into a major fundraising cause for Winona Volunteer Services.

When a flood hit Stockton and Minnesota City in 2007, a group of women from the Fun Is Rubber Stamping Together (FIRST) club decided to help those who were in need and visiting the food shelf, especially those visiting for the first time.

Nearly $17,000 later, Cards for a Cause by FIRST is still on a mission to “stamp” out hunger in Winona.

FIRST meets to learn new techniques for cardmaking and stamping on the third Monday of each month. The $2 cards are then sold at local businesses, including Blooming Grounds, Yarnology, The Vault, Salon Willow, Baby Bean and Bluff View Quilt Shop. Merchants Bank sells the cards to their employees, and the club also sells cards upon request.

For two months each year, FIRST donates all their profits to the Winona Volunteer Services’ food shelf. Cards are also made for the Fools Five Race’s silent auction in Lewiston, which benefits cancer research.



“It’s just a special time,” FIRST member Peggy McDeid told the Winona Daily News (https://bit.ly/1Q0zwXC).

Besides the time well-spent, Myra Carlson said she loves the feeling of dropping off the donations at Volunteer Services for the food shelf.

“It’s my favorite day of the month,” Carlson said, “collecting the money and going down to Winona Volunteer Services. I love doing that. The lady down there, she just smiles the minute she sees me coming through the door.”

Carlson, Barb Bambenek and Val Mahoney coordinate the plans during the months the profits go to the food shelf.

“You see the benefits from something like that,” Bambenek said. “The need is there, and to me it’s so immediate. You take that money there, and that money’s going right out (for) food.”

The other 12 women in FIRST get involved too, with each bringing their own style. Each month a member of the group will teach the other members how to make cards with a new technique they have learned from Pinterest, magazines and conventions. McDeid specializes in glitter, while Carlson loves the watercolor effect. The group shares everything, from stamps to techniques.

“Stampers are sharers,” McDeid noted.

The sharing extends beyond materials and talent.

Carlson recently mentored a similar club in Rochester on how to get involved in making cards for donations.

“I mentored them for a while,” Carlson said. “They’ve done very, very well, and they’re excited about it there, too. I told her why we picked the food shelf, and she said she felt that there was a need for it in Rochester, too.”

Besides perfecting their stamping technique and helping other groups start, the group loves the feeling of using their talents and hobbies for the community, Carlson said.

“I benefit from that more than anything,” Carlson said. “I’ve been blessed with so many good friends.”

The cards continue to be an ever-changing process.

“It’s kind of like the fashion industry,” Carlson said. “Things change.”

But one thing hasn’t: The group’s passion for stamps and good company, and turning that into a benefit for the community.

“When I took up stamping as a pleasure and enjoyment with retirement, I got to know these girls a lot and became really interested in this cause,” Bambenek said. “It made sense. We buy everything that we need for the cards, but we don’t benefit from it, not financially.”

Through the kind of laughter familiar friends share, they agreed: they have benefited most from the friendship - and the cause.

___

Information from: Winona Daily News, https://www.winonadailynews.com

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