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Card Crusaders celebrate 10 years of making beautiful folded cards

FiftyForward Martin Center members deliver cards to Frist Art Museum

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The FiftyForward Martin Center Card Crusaders celebrated Friday as they dropped off greeting cards for the Frist Art Museum in Nashville to mark their 10th year of crafting their artful designs. 

Throughout 2020, the group found new ways to build their beautiful iris folded cards to keep their social business alive and to stay safe and sane during the pandemic.

“We are delighted and proud to offer the wonderful iris folded cards from the FiftyForward Martin Center Card Crusaders in our gift shop,” Jon Emmitt, Frist Art Museum gift shop manager, said. “With designs inspired by the natural world, they have been a popular addition to our gift shop and an excellent way for the Frist Art Museum and our guests to support our sister nonprofit, FiftyForward.”

The eldest member of the group and founder, Marilyn Nevens, 96, was in attendance Friday. 

Following a happy and loving marriage of almost 58 years, Nevens suddenly became a widow. Devastated by the loss, she later found her new home, new friends and a new beginning at FiftyForward Martin Center.

“We went through World War II together,” Nevens, 96, said. “I, as a wife and mother, Norbert, as a 3.5-year Marine in naval aviation. We worked hard and raised four children, and once we retired, we traveled, always enjoying each other’s companionship. Then suddenly one day, I became a widow. I thought my world had ended.”

A friend of Neven’s heard about 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 her a reason to re-enter life. Instead of staying home all the time, she forced herself to shower, dress and walk out the door. She no longer felt all alone. 

“[Joining the center] was the best thing I ever did,” she said. “If laughter contributes to longevity, we’ve all added quite a few years to our lives. Every night in my prayers, I thank the good Lord for the gift of friendship.” 

Nevens became a center member and regularly volunteered at the reception desk. She served on the welcoming committee and helped with other odd tasks as needed. Little did she know that her greatest love and passion would be to raise funds to purchase a new vehicle for the center. 

It all started with an iris paper folding class taught by Judy Chilton, another center member who loved the arts and had an interest in teaching others. Nevens recalls not wanting Judy to stop the card-making class because it was so fun, and the center members were producing wonderful works of art.  

The card making led the woman to become entrepreneurs of sorts, launching what is now known as the Card Crusaders, a group of card collaborators who handcraft beautiful works of art.   

Today, the Card Crusaders is a collective of roughly 18 members who affectionately refer to one another as “gals.” Their iris patterns have grown from nine to more than 90. 

To date, the best-selling greeting card is their stunning bright red cardinal which they make with or without embellishments for holidays and regular inventory.

Neven shared that she and her gals find great satisfaction in what they do. They areproud of their finished product. 

“We find great companionship in that room,” she said. “A lot of us are widows and are alone. The incentive is to get out and brighten our day. … None of our goals would have been possible if it were not for these dedicated and talented women.” 

Card Crusaders have raised more than $26,000 for the FiftyForward Martin Center. Over the years, they have purchased a van, paid for new ottomans, purchased a 72-inch television, resurfaced game tables and bought new chairs, as well as added some upgrades to the parking lot. 

Clientele for the cards varies from individuals to corporate buyers, with custom designs and cards for all occasions. The Card Crusaders have done work for businesses ranging from Merrill Lynch to Cigna, and the beautiful cards have been sold at the Nashville International Airport as well as the Nashville and Chattanooga zoos. 

Learn more about the Card Crusaders at

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