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For more than 30 years Henny Broekema has made sure that every person at Covenant Christian Reformed Church in St. Catharines, Ont.—from babies to elderly—receives a handmade card for his or her birthday. It’s a ministry of community-building that the former church caretaker began in the early days of the church and that has earned her the name “The Card Lady.”

Broekema, 76, and her husband, John, were the original custodians of Covenant CRC at its founding in 1976. While cleaning the Sunday school rooms, she got an idea that grew. “I saw that the Sunday school teachers put the birthdates on the wall. But then I thought, ‘Well, that’s not fair, what about the brothers and sisters?’”

Broekema said, thinking those younger children deserved birthday recognition too. She approached the church council chair for help in tracking down the birth dates. “What did he do? He gave me the WHOLE church,” she said.

Broekema still recognizes all birthdays, but that’s not the only time a handmade card might find its way to a Covenant member’s mailbox. “To so many people, cards and phone calls speak volumes,” said Karen Fulmer, who received cards from Broekema during a fight with cancer and at other challenging times. “[Henny] is always sending such encouraging verses to people,” Fulmer said. “Sometimes you wonder how she thought of that.”

Broekema finds the inspiration for her cards from a stack of devotional books and quotable calendars. She always starts off with making a card that speaks to her first. “That’s the funny part of it,” she said. Broekema will search for a verse or saying and realize, “Okay, that’s for me, today.”

Broekema makes hundreds of cards each year, going beyond the church to supplying Coffee Break conferences as well. “I think this must be God’s touch,” Broekema said of her desire to reach out in this way. “Because some people say, ‘Are you ever getting tired of it?’ No. I’m not getting tired of it.”

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