Warming Hearts is Hard Work

Boutique card crafter elevated her game in 2020

Kathy Wrobel (with husband Conrad and pup Rocky) had a crafty idea for retirement.
Photo by Luke Van Hine

In a time when best wishes are best served at a distance, greeting cards can do a lot of good — $20,000 worth of good. 

“When I started approaching retirement age, I knew I needed to do more than kick up my feet and watch Netflix. I knew I wanted to make cards and make money for the community,” says Kathy Wrobel, a hobbyist crafter of 25 years. 

In January, Wrobel officially founded Cards for HVL Causes, a nonprofit with a fairly straightforward mission: using donated and wholesale materials, plus volunteer labor, to create high-quality greeting cards that can be sold to benefit local organizations. Typically, a card costs 50 cents to produce and grosses $5. A $10 donation generates $100 for the six affiliated nonprofits — Blue Ridge Humane Society, Four Seasons Foundation, Interfaith Assistance Ministry, Open Arms, Safelight, and St. Gerard House (see sidebar). In less than a year’s time, Cards for HVL Causes has sold 4,000 cards and raised $20,000. 

“These were organizations my husband and I supported before I retired and wanted to continue supporting despite a drop in income,” says Wrobel, who left her corporate job in business-to-business sales at Staples last year. 

Photo by Luke Van Hine

Wrobel is marketing a different product now and doing it quite well. Her goal is to establish Cards for HVL Causes as the number-one greeting-card brand in the Hendersonville community. Some 22 volunteers — mostly retired women and stay-at-home moms — share that vision and have donated hundreds of hours to move the organization forward. They coordinate shipping and receiving from Wrobel’s front porch (local orders of $25 or more are hand delivered), oversee packaging, and conduct quality-control checks. Volunteers also make the cards — a process that involves more than folding paper and brainstorming sentimental truisms. 

One look at the “Here’s to Fabulous Women Everywhere” or “Here’s to Fabulous Women of Color” series, two top-selling collections inspired by Wrobel’s all-female team, provides some insight into the craft’s complexity. Each component in these collections — from the lady’s silhouette to her shoes — must be produced using a die-cutting machine. The individual elements are then layered on top of patterned cardstock; the final figure is adorned with a miniature feather boa and a crystal necklace. Cards also include four self-adhesive messages that must be printed. One message encourages the recipient to “strut her stuff.” Another quotes fashion icon and humanitarian Audrey Hepburn.

“My volunteers are all so fabulous,” says Wrobel. “They inspire me with their commitment to our community. We needed a card to acknowledge one another.” 

Assembling all the cards requires logistical dexterity and a good bit of stamina.
Photo by Luke Van Hine

Especially impressive is how the team weathered COVID-19. They had initially planned to sell cards exclusively in face-to-face markets like the Blue Ridge Humane Society Thrift Store. But when the pandemic forced stores to close, the team launched a website and rolled out their “Missing You” series, a collection featuring a masked teddy bear. In time for the holidays, Cards for HVL Causes has also revealed a “Woodland Critters” collection — cards that transform into droll forest-animal ornaments. 

“In times of COVID, when we are feeling so isolated, it warms your heart to receive a card,” Wrobel tells Bold Life a day after she and friends celebrated her birthday via ZOOM. They sent snail mail too, of course. “Handwriting the note, addressing it, putting it in the mail — it’s a gift of your time. It’s so personal.”

To learn more about Cards for HVL Causes, visit cardsforacausenc.com. Select cards are for sale at the Four Seasons Hospice Home Stores (215 North Main St. in Hendersonville and 21 Long Shoals Road in South Asheville).

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