Amy Paden started Hearts of America when her cousin's husband requested small toys to distribute to Iraqi children. The idea was, if you can win the children over, they're going to win the parents over. Since then, Hearts of America has morphed into an organization that sends care packages to our troops overseas. These packages include many other things such as hygiene items, treats, movies, magazines, books, and special requests. Prior to sending any package to a soldier or unit, they also include a letter saying how much they're appreciated and how Hearts of America is working for them. When asked why she does this, Amy says, "For me and my volunteers, it's rewarding enough to hear from a recipient the words 'Thank you' or 'Please continue to correspond throughout my deployment.' Once you hear those words, you just can't turn around and not do something more for them."
Heidi Feyerherm started the Monkey in My Chair program in Jan 2009 after her daughter Chloe was diagnosed with brain cancer. The foundation sends a giant monkey stuffed animal to sit in the child's seat at school when they aren't able to be there due to chemo, radiation, or other doctor visits. Having a monkey in the chair helps the students feel connected to the child and is a much preferred sight than an empty chair. The monkey comes with a backpack containing a photo album, journal, a book explaining the situation to the classmates, and a smaller monkey that the child with cancer can carry. There is also a handbook to help teachers and parents know what to do. Since the organization's founding 3 years ago, the program is now used in 130 hospitals across the U.S. They've helped 450 families, 3 in Salina.
Reverend Steve Kmetz has been working at The Rescue Mission for 18 years offering food, clothes, shelter and guidance to those in need. Between 50 and 60 men are housed at the mission each night. The goal of the mission is to help get the men get back on their feet. A minister for 24 years, Steve wanted to start a carpentry shop to help teach woodworking skills to the homeless men that come to the mission, which would make them more employable. Steve's dream has finally come to fruition in the form of a shed-building program that the mission is implementing. The men in the shelter help build sheds that are sold to local businesses. Hired handyman, Handy Andy, has been working at the mission with the shed program for about a year and said it has been a great way for the guys to build their self-esteem and learn valuable skills, as well as form bonds with one another.
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