South San Francisco’s 11th ‘Operation Valentine’ for California National Guard Hailed a Success

South San Francisco, CA   February 15, 2019  Submitted by Leslie Guevarra, Office of State Senator Jerry Hill

South San Francisco Senior Center Sends More Than 2,100 Handmade Valentines to California Soldiers

Students from SSF Afterschool Program Contribute 210 Hand-Crafted Cards to the Haul

Senator Jerry Hill, Parks and Rec Commission Chair Betty Battaglia and a table full of crafters share jokes and puns as valentines-making proceeds apace.


SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO – On Valentine’s Day, more than 2,100 members of the California National Guard on duty at home and abroad received heartfelt messages of thanks and appreciation from the senior citizens, volunteers and friends of the Magnolia Center.


Chalk it up to another successful mission for the annual crafts project that the Magnolia Center seniors call “Operation Valentine.”


“We love this event,” said Sergeant First Class Rebecca Wolkenhauer of the California Military Department, speaking of the affection the California National Guard holds for the Magnolia Center’s valentines project, now in its 11th year.


Sergeant First Class Rebecca Wolkenhauer of the California Military Department admires a box brimming with valentines made by students in the Buri Buri After School program for members of the California National Guard. Aidan and Grace present the valentines on behalf of their after schoolmates. From left, Sergeant First Class Rebecca Wolkenhauer, South San Francisco Recreation Manager Angela Duldulao, Aidan, Grace and state Senator Jerry Hill.


“Our members tell us it means so much to them to know on this day that their community is thinking of them – that you are thinking of them and that you love them, too,” she told seniors at the center on a recent morning.


This year a troop of students from the Buri Buri Afterschool Program also made valentines, contributing 210 cards to the 1,900 from the Magnolia Center. The multipurpose, drop-in center for senior services and the afterschool program are operated by the South San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department.


“This is great event for us as well,” said Angela Duldulao, a recreation manager for the city. “It’s a special day.”


Betty Battaglia, chair of the South San Francisco Parks and Recreation Commission, seated on right side of the table near the center, grins as she and her fellow card-markers delve into construction paper, glue, glitter, stickers and fuzzy pom poms for the card-making fest that caps the Magnolia Center’s annual Operation Valentine project.


One day a year, usually on a Friday morning in January, the Magnolia Center holds a card-making fest. There’s breakfast, then members of the California National Guard from Sacramento and the 129th Rescue Wing in Mountain View, city dignitaries, seniors who use the center, and longtime volunteers gather around long tables heaped with construction paper, doilies, glitter, stickers, ribbon, glue and enough scalloped-blade scissors to equip a legion of scrapbookers.


This year, that day was January 25. The valentines made that morning were pooled with the 210 from the afterschool program and the hundreds made by Magnolia Center seniors across the past year and then presented to the visiting members of the California National Guard and Senator Jerry Hill, who launched the valentines project with the center when he was an assemblyman.


Aidan and Grace, students who participate in the Buri Buri After School program, took a break from a morning class to visit the Magnolia Center and make valentines with seniors and their visitors. The 10-year-olds also brought a box filled with 210 valentines made by students in the after school program who wanted to share their greetings and thanks with California National Guard members.


“It is critical that we recognize and appreciate the women and men who give their time to serve our country and our communities in our times of need,” said Senator Hill, noting that California National Guard members helped fight the wildfires that ravaged the state last year and this year. “Thanks to the Magnolia Center’s Operation Valentine, California Guardsmen and women will receive a message of love and thanks, no matter where they might be deployed.”

Members of the California National Guard and the 129th Rescue Wing gather with Magnolia Center seniors, their friends and boxes of handmade valentines.


Since the event began, the Magnolia seniors have steadily increased the number of valentines they make for California’s soldiers. They started making the cards for those serving from their hometown and other Bay Area communities. Then they set their sights higher, eventually aiming to make enough cards for all deployed members of the California National Guard and any other members on duty on Cupid’s holiday


“Once again, you have outdone yourselves,” Senator Hill told the seniors and friends of the Magnolia Center. “Thank you for your time and efforts.”


{Photo credits to the Office of Senator Jerry Hill}


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