A new group of friends share laughter, camaraderie and a sense of quiet purpose as they gather around a table at the far end of the Curry Public Library in Gold Beach.
At first glance the scene has the appearance of a chummy card game. On closer inspection there are cards indeed, but no diamonds, spades or clubs...
Just plenty of hearts.
It's 4 p.m. on the third Wednesday of the month and the Gold Beach Letter Writers, whose seven members prefer to remain anonymous, are penning letters of encouragement in cards to send to people in need. The recipients could be suffering from a job loss, a debilitating injury, or mourning the death of a loved one.
The writers try to avoid recognition - the last thing they want is for the very person they help to feel obligated to say "Thank you."
The writers' leader "Michele" (the names of the members have been changed to maintain their anonimity) said the group is modeled after the national organization called The World Needs More Love Letters (moreloveletters.com.)
"We aren't directly linked to that entity, but pattern ourselves after what they do," Michele said.
She said moreloveletters.com was created in 2010 after a woman riding home on a subway having a "bad day" spotted another lady on the train who seemed to be having a worse day than she. The first woman decided to write the second a letter of encouragement, leaving it on her seat. The act of kindness spurred the first woman to continue writing such letters which, in turn, prompted others across the country to do the same.
The Gold Beach Letter Writers want to accomplish similar success in Curry County.
Writer "Robert" is the only 60-something-year-old man sitting at the library table with four women on this particular Wednesday. He doesn't seem to mind. Beside him is "Bobby," who is placing smiley face stickers and stars on the bottom of a card he just finished. Robert stumbled upon the letter writers by accident and was taken by the idea of helping others in a such a unique way.
"Sometimes the only thing these people ever get in the mail is bills!" he said.
He searches the table for a Winnie the Pooh decal he spied earlier.
"Did you girls take the last Winnie?" he bellowed in feigned indignation.
Initially, the group, which started about a year ago, sent cards and letters to organizations such as assisted care facilities.
"Nowadays we have switched to individuals. We keep our ears open for those in the community who may be suffering through a tough circumstance," Michele said. "It could be a recent hospitalization, an automobile accident, perhaps a fire in someone's home. Any situation where pain or depression is someone else's reality."
Members of the Gold Beach Letter Writers compile individual lists of potential recipients and share the lists during their monthly meetings. The group creates a final list of recipients and write five or seven letters for each person on the list. The letters are bundled together and sent in the mail or by a third person, so as to keep the writers anonymous.
The envelopes bear the message "For You!" and each letter is signed "Your friend."
On this particular Wednesday, the writers complete 20 cards in the hour they spend together.
The cards are a riot of colorful pastels. Some are adorned with art work created and donated by local artists, who also remain anonymous. Many cards are handmade treasures that would put those created by big-name card companies to shame.
A sample card reads:
"This beautiful homemade card is just for you! We are sitting in the midst of the green firs. So beautiful! The birds are flying above.
"Hope you are feeling as light and free as they are.
"You are cared for.
Michele hopes more good-syllable Samaritans will join their ranks.
"The more the merrier. We want our recipients to have an avalanche of mail!" she said.
What is the hardest letter Michele has had to write?
"There was a young woman in her early 20s whose entire family had been recently killed in an automobile accident," she said. "I tried to be sensitive to the tremendous pain that she was in."
The writers' mission, she said, is to alleviate that suffering.
The recipients aren't the only ones who benefit from the cards.
Robert said making the cards is "therapeutic" for him.
"I feel good when I get done, like I've helped in my own small way to make my little corner of the world a better place."