The FiftyForward Martin Center Card Crusaders celebrated Friday by depositing greeting cards for the Frist Art Museum in Nashville to mark their 10th year of creating their artistic creations.
Throughout 2020, the group found new ways to create their beautiful iris-shaped folded cards to keep their social business alive and stay safe and sane during the pandemic.
“We are delighted and proud to bring the wonderful Iris Folded Cards of the FiftyForward Martin Center Card Crusaders to our gift shop,” said Jon Emmitt, Director of the Frist Art Museum Gift Shop. “With designs inspired by the natural world, they have been a popular addition to our gift shop and a great way for the Frist Art Museum and our guests to support our sister non-profit organization, FiftyForward.”
The eldest of the group and founder, Marilyn Nevens, 96, was present on Friday.
After a happy and loving marriage of almost 58 years, Nevens suddenly became a widow. Devastated by the loss, she then found her new home, new friends, and a new beginning at the FiftyForward Martin Center.
“We went through World War II together,” said Nevens, 96. “Me, as wife and mother, Norbert, as a 3.5 year old Marine in naval aviation. We worked hard and raised four children, and once we retired we traveled, always enjoying each other’s company. Then suddenly one day I became a widow. I thought my world was over.
A friend of Neven’s heard about the FiftyForward Martin Center, and they joined the center together in Brentwood. Looking back, Nevens said, it was one of the most important decisions she’s ever made. The center gave him a reason to return to life. Instead of staying home all the time, she forced herself to take a shower, get dressed, and go out. She no longer felt alone.
“[Joining the center] was the best thing I have ever done, ”she said. “If laughter contributes to longevity, we’ve all added a few more years to our lives. Every evening in my prayers, I thank the good Lord for the gift of friendship.
Nevens joined the center and regularly volunteered at the reception. She served on the welcoming committee and helped with other odd tasks as needed. She didn’t know that her greatest love and greatest passion would be to raise funds to buy a new vehicle for the center.
It all started with an iris paper folding class given by Judy Chilton, another member of the center who loved the arts and was interested in teaching others. Nevens remembers that she didn’t want Judy to stop the card making class because it was so much fun and the members of the center were producing wonderful works of art.
Card making led the woman to become of sorts of entrepreneurs, starting what is now known as Card Crusaders, a group of card collaborators who handcraft beautiful works of art.
Today, the Card Crusaders are a collective of about 18 members who affectionately refer to themselves as “girls”. Their iris patterns have grown from nine to over 90.
The best-selling greeting card to date is their stunning bright red cardinal which they make with or without embellishments for the holidays and regular inventory.
Never shared that she and her daughters find great satisfaction in what they do. They areproud of their finished product.
“We find great company in this room,” she said. “Many of us are widows and alone. The incentive is to go out and brighten up our day. … None of our goals would have been possible without these dedicated and talented women.
Card Crusaders raised over $ 26,000 for the FiftyForward Martin Center. Over the years, they’ve bought a minivan, paid for new ottomans, bought a 72-inch TV, resurfaced game tables, and bought new chairs, along with some parking lot improvements.
The customer base for the cards varies from individuals to corporate buyers, with designs and cards personalized for all occasions. Card Crusaders have worked for companies ranging from Merrill Lynch to Cigna, and the beautiful cards have been sold at Nashville International Airport as well as Nashville and Chattanooga Zoos.
Find out more about Card Crusaders on https://fiftyforward.org/locations/martin-center/greeting-cards/.