FAIRBANKS — Sixteen months ago, Geoff Welch made a quiet proposition to anyone who wandered through the doors at Date-Line Digital Printing. If they wanted to send a thank-you card to someone, he’d give one to them for free.
Welch and his business partner, Travis Lewis, weren’t even sure people would pay attention to the offer. But more than 6,000 free cards later, the Thanks Fairbanks program has given gratitude in the community an undeniable boost.
“It just kind of builds and builds and builds,” said Welch, smiling in his office as printing equipment whirs in the background.
The project got its spark in 2011, when Welch’s wife, Natalie, attended a series of classes at their church about expressing thankfulness. It led to a lengthy experiment by Welch — his first task at work each morning would be to write a thank-you note to someone who deserved one.
He churned out 275 cards his first year and said he enjoyed every one of them.
“I found that I got more out of it than anything else,” Welch said. “I always get a lift out of it when I’m done.”
The experience led him to launch Thanks Fairbanks, using cards they printed up in their shop at Campus Corner Mall. Three free cards would go to anyone who asked, with another batch arriving every three months in the mail to people who signed up for the program.
Welch and Lewis weren’t sure if they’d be ignored or swamped with requests. Instead, they’ve had a steady, growing interest, with more than 500 people signed up for regular shipments of thank-you cards. Welch decided this summer to give the program a higher profile — he’s promoting a website, www.thxfbx.com, and has made presentations to groups like the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce encouraging people to join.
Welch said he decided at the beginning of the project not to focus on expenses and isn’t even sure how much he’s spent on printing and postage. But he’s hopeful the program continues to gain enough momentum that he’s forced to consider those costs.
“The goal is to get it to the point where it’s overwhelming and other people need to get involved,” he said.
Welch said Thanks Fairbanks has given him plenty to be grateful about, as well. A mother said her teenage son had been sending cards to his grandmother, behavior that was decidedly out of character. He occasionally gets his own cards back in the mail, from people thanking him for offering the program.
“In my mind, a community that’s focused on gratitude is going to be linked together in a stronger way,” he said. “That’s what we’re trying to facilitate.”