Using no paper blanks or factory-made pieces, a group of Pierre women meets regularly to create original handcrafted greeting cards. Starting each card by cutting colored paper then adding multiple layers of embellishments, the ladies produce pieces of attention for individuals and various occasions.

Each member of the Church Mice Ministry adds their touch to each card. Though from different churches, the ladies gather in the basement of the Lutheran Memorial Church across from the Capitol. On the first Sunday of each month, starting at 1 p.m., their artistic talents combine to build many personal cards from scratch.

“We can make 70 in two hours,” member LaDonna Wagner said. “Even with all the visiting, we can be done before the two hours. Each person has helped create each card.”

Currently, the group is working on at least 50 individual Valentine’s cards and a wide variety of other ones. Sometimes a dozen cards or more are called for to go to people on a prayer list, including more than just Lutheran Memorial Church attendees. The group plans to start making Easter cards in February.

The Church Mice send many of the approximately 1,200 cards they create every year to homebound church members and people living in nursing homes or assisted living centers for Valentines Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But it’s not just the big holidays and events. The group also makes cards for every occasion, from first communions and confirmations to graduations and sympathy cards. The members even make special birthday cards for those 80 and older or those special couples celebrating 50 or more years together.

Lutheran Memorial Church’s Deacon Kris Wollman said in an email that the women create beautiful expressions of joy, thanksgiving, lament, love loss and celebrating milestones.

“These stamped cards — with layers of color, intricate design, and thoughtful touches — are sent to folks in care facilities, to those who spend much of their time at home, to families who have lost loved ones, to those on our prayer lists, as well as our confirmation kids and graduating high school seniors,” she said.

Member Lori Glanzman said the group receives thanks from card recipients, and many people on the prayer list who get a card say how much they appreciated it.

Family members of the recipients have also told the group how much receiving the handmade cards meant to the person and their family.

The group began in 1997, and their size has varied since then. The Church Mice currently have nine women in the group.

“Such a small group. Nobody even knows we are here, like a church mouse. I think that is probably how it came about,” Glanzman said of their name.

While creating the cards for other people might be why the Church Mice get together, the members still enjoy the benefits of being there for each other and having fun together.

“We’re pretty excited,” Glanzman said. “We look forward to getting together once a month. We’re a big support group for each other, too. You know, if one of us is having a hard time with something, we cheer each other up. Or we make fun of each other and just laugh. We just have a good time laughing and joking around, still accomplishing a mission — we call it a mission. And, that’s why it’s lasted 25 years.”

The group began with long-time church members Sharon Starks, now deceased, and Barb Bjorneberg, currently living in Spearfish, who found some people needed a handmade card. So, the two assembled a group of women and instructed them in crafting greeting cards and writing messages in them for people in the community. The recipients included the sick, grieving or those who just had a bad day.

Creating individualized cards isn’t a cheap hobby. The simple supplies include different colors of cutting paper, colored ribbons, colored string, and double-sided tape. The variety of rubber stamps is numerous, with words such as “sympathy,” “thinking of you,” “happy birthday,” and so on. But the group is always looking for better supplies, embossing and stamps. The pattern for each punch can cost around $18, and the die-cast machine’s initial investment is about $100, though they could last for years. The group’s members own many of the necessary machines and bring them to the meetings.

Glanzman said they have a budget that the church allows for the group, and sometimes they receive donations, sometimes from recipients of the cards. According to Wollman, the January and February Noisy Offering will go toward supplies.

Wollman noted the fulfillment that comes from giving — and receiving — a handcrafted card in this age of technology is what endears the group to the church.

Del Bartels | 605-224-7301

Reporter Del Bartels, a born and raised South Dakotan and a graduate from Black Hills State University, was the editor of a weekly newspaper for 17 years.

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