poverty

How it began

Hands to Hearts, Inc. started as a gift to a small group of people in Shawnee, KS. A group of typical suburban families.

The men knew one another because most of them were part of a 5:30 a.m. Friday morning Bible Study at a local coffee shop. Some of them, along with their wives, had been to South Africa on mission trips and seen firsthand the effects of both severe poverty and of the tremendous good that could be done when people joined together to make a difference.

“Why couldn’t we do that here? What about the hungry people across the river, just minutes away from us? What about the children?”

A bit of discussion, a bit of prayer, and Hands to Hearts was born.

Seeing the need

After visiting a local church that was already working in public schools, providing support and weekend backpacks of food for students, we decided “We can do this” and in the summer of 2009 H2H began by purchasing and packing food for 150 weekend backpacks for children in two summer school programs.

When the 2009-2010 school year began, we connected with Harvesters to serve as community partners for other schools and began packing and distributing 450 BackSnacks every week. The volunteer pool grew. The 2010-2011 school year saw this increase to 1600 backpacks in 23 schools in 3 school districts with volunteers packing at two locations every Thursday night.

Then, in December of 2010, a change. The REAL fun started. By this time the number of volunteers showing up to pack food totaled well over 100. It was time to move forward.

On December 2, 2010, we met with staff at Silver City Elementary, our first partner school, to see what we could do to help. We learned about the needs – some as basic as supplies for special needs children, some as simple as a warm coat and clothing to stock an emergency clothes closet…and God began opening doors. Within weeks we had put out the word via e-mail and were collecting hundreds of items of clothing and distributing them to stock clothes closets not only at Silver City, but as the word spread, in other elementary schools as well….just in time for the winter cold spell.

Education

Books, books, books. Hundreds of books. For those of us with plenty of books, plenty of libraries that we have easy access to…not such a big thing. But for those who don’t have these things?

Again, we put out the word to volunteers and H2H was able to offer to send books home along with backpacks for every school that responded to the offer. We collected books to keep a bookmobile stocked and each summer school student at Silver City picked out a book to take home every week. Books for children, books for parents, books for siblings.

In addition, we offered to help with reading and in April, 2011, began offering one-on-one tutoring to 12 children at Silver City for two hours a week.

Proof it is working

Each Silver City child was gifted with a pair of gloves at Christmas time. One child said it was the first pair of gloves he had ever owned. Another wanted to share his gloves with his mother, since their family was not getting Christmas gifts that year. For some children, it was their only Christmas gift.

A little girl who came to school in wet clothing on a subzero morning. She had washed her clothes by hand the evening before and set them on a heater to dry. They hadn’t dried, and she walked into school in wet clothes. The nurse was able to go to the clothes closet that we had filled just days before and provide her with warm outfits to wear and take home…and allow her the dignity of going to class with her head held high.

As a result, and because of our significant volunteer base, we are able to make decisions and respond quickly as opportunities arise. For instance:

  • We learned of a serious need for warm clothing. We put out an e-mail to our volunteer database and delivered vanloads of warm coats, hats, gloves and winter wear before Christmas vacation.
  • We learned of an apartment complex with 119 units. The manager estimated that 150 families lived there, but was unable to give us a more accurate count because of the large number of homeless/transient families living with their residents. The complex contains many refugee families, some of whom have no grasp of the English language. Two weeks after visiting with the apartment manager, we were able to do a “morning market” offering a pancake breakfast and distributing food, clothing and other necessities to the residents—just in time for school starting. The next month, we were back again.
  • We are often able to respond IMMEDIATELY to needs —like providing swimsuits within days for heartbroken refugee children who had just lost their father, or providing a much-needed cot for a school nurse’s office.

The next step

The needs don’t stop, but the Love available to fill those needs is as vast as the ocean.

There are more schools to partner with, more children to help. During the 2010-2011 school year KCK had 1400 homeless children enrolled in the school district. The average age of homelessness in KCK- 7 years. The most immediate needs are very basic, food and clothing. Beyond that, shelter, healthcare, safety, jobs.

The gift

Hands to Hearts has been able to help. We have been able to make an impact, to make a difference. What an incredible gift, to have a part in seeing that a child is warm or fed or can read. What an honor to see the love parents have for children and children have for parents and siblings in the most difficult of situations, and to be able to offer a helping hand to families and schools. What a privilege to work alongside others both within our organization and outside of it to get this done.

Hands to Hearts is a Christian organization and we are blessed to have many volunteers from many different denominations, different faiths, some who profess to have no belief system at all but have a desire to help . Working side by side, we can make a difference. Together we can walk through doors as God opens them before us. Together, we can be what we are called to be and help others do the same.

Hands to Hearts is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. It is an all-volunteer organization with no paid staff and no ongoing affiliation or financial connection with any church, business or financial institution.