Several times a week Tracy Cordova jots a few sentences on a postcard or writes longer letters to two soldiers she has never met.

As a volunteer with the nationwide nonprofit Soldiers’ Angels, Cordova – an administrative assistant in the CHASS Dean’s Office – is one of thousands of people who have committed to being a one-way pen pal of military men and women who are deployed overseas.

“You know you won’t get anything back but a good feeling in your heart,” said Cordova, who began volunteering with the group two years ago. “Regardless of people’s views about the war, this is about supporting the soldiers.”

Only one of the soldiers she currently writes to responds, via e-mail. But Cordova said there’s no doubt that the letters and monthly boxes of snacks, baby wipes, Chapstick, hard candy, and pictures drawn by her 3-year-old son are appreciated.

“It makes a difference in their day,” she said the soldier told her. “He’s not married and he doesn’t have much family. He said his days were getting long. Now, he comes back from a mission and there are cards for him.”
Cordova, a single mother, said she wanted to be a volunteer, but “it needed to be something I could do at 2 a.m. or at lunch time. My time with my son is very precious.”

With a family history of military service and a love of writing, she decided that Soldiers’ Angels would be a good fit.

She also volunteers at the Wylie Center, a multiservice center in Riverside for children with special needs, by assembling the materials for monthly craft projects. Her son, Zachary, attends the center and receives additional help for delayed speech.

By volunteering, Cordova said, she sets an example for her son. “I want him to learn to have these same values,” she said. “Volunteering makes me feel great at the end of the day.”

Above and Beyond is a new section in Inside UCR that is designed to recognize faculty and staff who make contributions that to the general community that go beyond their job duties. If you or someone you know would be a good candidate for this feature, please send an e-mail to