Hearts & Hands, or, I Am So Proud That These Are My People

For several weeks, I’ve known about a big local service project–called Hearts & Hands–because it’s been in the printed program at Sacrament meeting and someone talked about it at Ward Council last month, I think. I’ve (mostly) intentionally avoided talking about it with my wife, because I know she’ll want to go, and worse, she’ll want me to go. I prefer the kind of service I can do from home, while watching football, I guess. (Did I say that out loud?)

I don’t know much about Hearts & Hands, beyond that it’s an annual event, because I vaguely remember that DW went last year, and how grateful I was to escape by virtue of my need to prepare for an exam. DW mentioned last night that our friends would be going, and that she would like to go, too. I mumbled something about wanting to get a decent workout in the morning, and tried to be basically non-committal. This morning, however, DW just announces that we’re going. Fine. After 9:30 am, we load our two kids into the car, and make our way to Newport Beach and arrive at the meeting house where the event started about 45 minutes ago.

The place is crawling with people, and the gym and hallways are filled with large and small tables, chairs, and sign boards. I don’t really stop to look at any of them, because I quickly spot a woman from our ward who is (I think) our ward’s representative for the event, and whose husband is a friend of mine. Most importantly, they have a son who is the same age as my son, so I’m excited to get off the hook for parenting. She says that her husband and kids will show up later. Crap. She also says that they need lots of help on the sewing machines, so DW is a valuable volunteer. That means I get both kids. Double crap. While DW gets situated at one of the sewing stations, I take both kids–already struggling for freedom to run around in the stimulus-rich environment–into the nursery. The toy selection is seriously wanting, and there isn’t a single train for my trains-only son to play with. Triple crap.

And yet, it doesn’t matter. If my contribution to the service project will be childcare, so be it. There is something neat about the event–just a feeling I got as walked through it, since I haven’t even had a chance to figure out what is going on. Despite the auspicious start, I’m oddly glad I’m there, and even volunteer to watch another couple of kids so their parents can go help with the service project. Wow! I’m serving!

(Remember that Hugh Grant movie About a Boy? In the movie, Will buys the dorky Marcus some cool new trainers, and upon seeing the boy’s elation, says to himself, “So this is what people meant by a natural high. And it only cost 60 quid.” Today, I am Will, and babysitting is my 60 quid.”)

After 15 minutes, both kids are crying. Son still wants a train. Daughter wants whatever Son is holding in his hands. It’s time for a change of venue, so I muster my courage and decide to take my kids into the project areas and see if I can find something for them to work on [read: play with {read: put in mouth and/or destroy}]. After scoping out a few tables, I find one that has lots of beads and lengths of rope. An older woman with a name tag explains that they are for making jump ropes. Okay, that sounds easy enough. My son seems content to look around at everything going on, but he’s staying in one place, so I focus on my daughter, helping her put bead after bead onto a rope. Blue, white, purple, white, blue…throw in a red piece, just because I have no artistic sense and DW isn’t there to rebuke me. After 5 minutes, the jump rope is completed, my daughter has vanished, and my son is demanding his Mommy. I point him in her general direction, and take off through the crowds, looking for my daughter. This sequence of events repeats itself 4-5 times throughout the morning.

With my little girl on my shoulders, I look around the gym. There are a ton of people here! Our friends/neighbors–the ones DW had used as leverage in making me come in the first place–finally show up, and my son and their boys start playing [read: dragging jump ropes around the gym {read: making each other cry by pulling on opposite ends and refusing to let the other have the ropes}]. My neighbor seems to have things under control with the boys, and my daughter is suddenly willing to go back to the nursery to play. Since DW needs some pictures taken for her calling, and because she is cranking away on the sewing machine, I leave my daughter with another ward member who just turned up with his son in the nursery and head out to snap some photos.

I’m serving! Again!

I move from table to table–without a child in my arms or pulling on my legs, I am finally getting a glimpse of what is going on. There are crafts of every sort: Blankets–both cheaper fleeces and more labor-intense quilts being cut, sewn, and packaged. Letters are being written en masse to military servicemen and women. Teddy bears. Christmas stockings. Bake sales. Wooden toy cars. I have no idea what any of it is for or where it is going, so I decide to find out. Wandering out into the foyer, I find some sign-in sheets for all the volunteers (somehow, I had missed these. Or they don’t have you sign in if you’re just babysitting for the real volunteers). I ask the folks at the desk if they have any information about the project, and they refer me to a woman named Jamie who is in the kitchen instructing some teenage girls in the proper preparation of lunch.

I start asking Jamie about Hearts & Hands–How did it start? Who is running the whole show? Where do all of these crafts and items go? She starts answering, but not before she hands me an enormous bag of ice and heads outside to a couple of beverage coolers where she is mixing some kind of cranberry fizz drink. Jamie tells me that Hearts & Hands has been going for about 10 years–back when it started, she was involved in her ward in some kind of PR capacity, so she’s been with the project from the get-go. “It started as a kickoff to the national family week…We wanted it to be a place where families could come to work together as families on service projects,” she says. “We were using as many local service organizations as we could, to get the word out.” Jamie says that one of the best changes over time has been the number of youth–LDS and otherwise–that have participated. Accordingly, teaching youth to serve has become one of the targets of Hearts & Hands.

Christmas Stockings for Cold Weather Shelters

Seems like it’s working. Jamie tells me the Beach City Boy’s Service League brings scores of young folks, and then she introduces me to Julie Elkins, the Reverend at First United Methodist Church, located in nearby Costa Mesa. Julie has a whole troop of young women from the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls (a group affiliated with Masonic lodges) with her in the kitchen and throughout the LDS meetinghouse, assisting the other volunteers. Jamie says that they expect between five and seven hundred volunteers during the 5-hour project.

I’m starting to understand more about how the program started, but I still don’t know much about where the products are going. I ask Jamie about some of the specific projects going on, and she puts down the bottles of soda pop and looks straight at me. “We will be delivering filled Christmas stockings to the Cold Weather Shelter on Christmas Eve night. That’s the only present those people are gonna get, and if you’ve ever been to a cold weather shelter on Christmas Eve night and seen the children there, that’s a pitiful place for anybody to have to be on Christmas Eve night, so waking up te next morning and being handed a stocking with as many wonderful things as we can shove into it is really worthwhile.”

Da Bears!

“We’ve got “Blankets & Bears.” We had a donor buy all the bears we’re making all the blankets (So that’s what DW is sewing…), we wrap the bears in the blankets we tie them with a ribbon and they go to Families Forward, which is a national organization….in the middle of the night a child could be taken out of a home, and how much devastation does that bring to a child’s life? At least we can give them a bear to hold onto and a blanket to sleep with that night.”

Jamie keeps talking, and I’m glad she does–despite my efforts to maintain my stoic nature, the frankness with which she describes the efforts jerks at my heart and makes my eyes start to water a bit.

“We have 22 projects going on, including the blood drive. By the time we’re done, we will have hundred and hundreds and hundreds of items. One of the things that’s going on…is the Afghanistan or military triage kits. Those are kits that the troops have been asked to carry with them in a baggie.”

Letters for Soldiers

“Tampons, gauze, and tape. And when they’ve got a wounded right next to them, they pull out that triage kit, they shove that stuff in there, they tape them up, and that helps save their lives until the medic can get there. We’ve done 500 of those kits today.”

According to Jamie, Hearts & Hands is sponsored by the Newport Mesa Irvine Interfaith Council, and has typically been strongly supported by local Muslims, Sihks, Jews, various Christian denominations. For example, she tells me that Mariner’s Church, a local Evangelical Christian powerhouse, will be taking a large amount of the products to orphanages in Mexico. “But,” she says, “We host it. LDS Humanitarian Services is the driving force because of it’s ability to deliver goods directly to the Bishop’s Storehouse, which then ships them worldwide wherever they are needed.”

It’s after noon, and Jamie disappears into a mass of near the humongous griddles which have been set up on a truck bed supplied by the local fire department. The smell of cooking sausages, meatballs, and fried onions wafts about and makes me laugh: No one responds to a promise of lunch like a bunch of Mormons.

The long line forming around the fire truck brings another, more meaningful truth to my mind: No one circles the wagons like the Mormons. I am so grateful that these are my people. Even if babysitting is all I can offer, I want to be one of them.


Hearts & Hands, or, I Am So Proud That These Are My People


  1. Indeed.

  2. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    Another reason to love tampons.

    Awesome, Scott.

  3. Mark Brown says:

    Excellent, Scott.

  4. Good work, Scott B. And the photos were a nice addition to the post. Thanks.

    P.S. What kind of service CAN you do from home, while watching football? This is not a rhetorical question.

  5. That’s neat. Should I have heard about this since I live in HB? Or was it a stake thing?

  6. Marvelous, Scott.

  7. Hunter,
    All kinds of things! I am a master at pretending to watch my kids while I watch football. In fact, I would wager that I could pretend to watch the neighbors’ kids at the same time, too!

  8. Susan M,
    It was just a stake thing, but had you been in tune with the Spirit, you surely would have felt it calling you from HB.

  9. namakemono says:

    Baby sitting is important

  10. Awesome, Scott; and Amen.

  11. I feel the same way, Scott. Amen.

  12. Hunter,
    Here’s another (for real).

  13. Scott, Thanks for watching my kids for a few minutes while I helped out with the laminator. Turns out I messed up the machine while our stake pres was watching. He tracked down a screwdriver so we could open it up and try to fix it together. So I can now scratch “fixing a laminator with my stake pres” off my bucket list. (I told him that if that doctor gig didn’t work out that he had a future as a laminator repair man. He said he’d wait and see if the doctor thing panned out.) After we fixed it I still couldn’t laminate the folders due to the small margin for error and my sufficiently large errors. In complete honesty, I’d have been happy to babysit the whole time so others could do the projects. I heart Hearts and Hands, and any service rendered there is valuable. Now back to MNF…

  14. Excellent post, Scott! Giving service can almost be as fun as watching football…almost. ;-)

  15. Teaneck, New Jersey says:

    @ About a Boy (directed by Weitz)’s “60 quid”: {smiles}

  16. Congratulations on your worthwhile project. All profits from my $100 exhibit rental fees and books, “Thanking Our Troops–God Bless America Touring Quilts” go to groups like yours. Please send me your mailing address and email and I’ll mail you a free book and hopefully a donation soon.

    Hope you’ll enter this 22″ Contest so you can tell the nation about your work:

    2010 Patriotic Quilt Contest to Benefit Soldiers

    Judy Howard of Buckboard Quilts announces the 2010 Patriotic Quilt Contest with deadline of March 31. These 22” quilts will tour for 18 months with the other 220 “God Bless America Touring Quilts” and then be auctioned.

    All profits from Judy’s book, Thanking Our Troops—God Bless America Touring Quilts, $100 exhibit rental fees (free to military and veteran groups) and auction proceeds will go to non-profits who make quilts for wounded soldiers and families of the fallen. Corporate prizes will be announced. Artists receive a free copy of Thanking our Troops for entering.

    Quilt photos and quilt artists’ names will be posted on blogs, websites and http://heavenlypatchwork.com/patriotic_quilt_exhibits_and_programs.htm , along with entry and rental forms, corporate prize winners, calendar of exhibits and book-ordering information.

    Theme of quilts is patriotic, stars and stripes, “Thanking our Troops” or Biblically inspired to promote love of God and Country. No Entry Fees.

    Finished quilt size is 22” x 22” with a 4” sleeve or 4” loops sewn along the upper back for displaying on rod, plus four tabs along the upper edge for pinning onto draped racks to protect quilt.

    Please also attach securely along the bottom of quilt (that can be folded back) an 18”wide by 5”high story label that includes the quilt title, artist’s name, contact info if desired, Artist’s Statement with heart-warming story of what inspired him/her to make the quilt. Label can be typed or photo transferred onto fabric, quilted and coordinated as part of quilt art, or just typed on thick paper and laminated or put in plastic covering and attached. Story label can be a free advertising billboard as it tours to sell artist’s quilts, patterns, services or to promote charity quilting group, soliciting volunteers or donations.

    Mail quilts with signed entry forms to 12101 N. MacArthur #137 Oklahoma City, OK 73162.

    Thanks for quilting for this worthwhile cause—raising money for quilts for wounded warriors and families of the fallen—those most in need of the touch of God’s love and comfort quilts represent. Reserve this $100 exhibit for your next show by contacting Judy Howard, 405-751-3885, BuckboardQuilts@cox.net.

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