The ‘Hands and Heart Ministry’ began about three years ago when Debe Hooley, owner of Yoder’s Family Traditions Gift and Craft Shoppe, learned about a specific opportunity to help others.
“I asked Resources for Women (Pregnancy Center) what their needs were, and they said they actually needed baby booties crocheted and knitted,” Hooley said. The handmade booties are given to pregnant women to show them “someone cared enough about their unborn child to knit them a pair of booties, hoping that will make a positive impact, and they will choose not to abort the baby,” she said.
Yoder’s store hosts craft classes and a weekly hobby class for women who enjoy sewing and other crafts, so she asked those participates to take on the project, and the rest is history.
“I don’t have the resources financially to give to a lot of organizations,” she said. “The door is always opening for people asking for donations, so this is something we can do with what we have.”
Since it started, the talented group has donated more than 100 pillows and handmade pillowcases for victims of the 2011 tornadoes across Alabama, booties for premature babies, and this week, members crocheted 23 (and counting) chemo hats for cancer patients. The hats will be donated to oncologist Dr. Allen Yeilding’s office in Sylacauga, where patients who have lost or are losing hair from treatment will be offered them at no charge.
“I’ve never actually seen anybody receive things we’ve made, but we have gotten reports from people who delivered them and heard how much the recipient appreciated what we did and how much it meant to them,” said ‘Hands and Heart’ member Carol Forsyth of Helena “Just knowing that what we’re doing brings that much joy to somebody makes you feel wonderful.”
Forsyth said she first made a chemo hat for a friend who had breast cancer and was seeking a more comfortable and affordable option to wigs. “I thought, ‘I can do something about that, and she’s the first person I ever made a cap for,” she said. “I made it to look like hair, and she loved it. And it was so simple to do.”
Linnie Hall, who works at Dr. Yielding’s office, said several organizations have donated hats or scarves and they are always appreciative.
“Our patients love it,” she said. “It’s something exciting, like a little present for them.” The brightly colored hats make patients “smile and lets them know somebody cares about them that they don’t even know,” she said. “Hopefully it gives them a positive attitude, which is what all patients need.”
Hooley said ‘Hearts and Hands’ has more projects potentially on the horizon, including making hats for premature babies, having children decorate placemats for nursing home residents and participating in ‘A Heart to Hold,’ an organization for families who have experienced a miscarriage that makes heart-shaped pillows the weight of the unborn baby.
Tasks the group takes on tend to be more personal and specific, items one would not typically thing of to donate – and Hooley said that is not by her own doing.
“To me, it’s always a God thing, because I don’t think of these things on my own,” she said. “It’s like He just brings opportunities. When we see a need, we just like to be able to touch somebody’s life.”
Forsyth said participants in the ministry receive more in return than what they give.
“There are so many wonderful people in the area that help out, and we all enjoy every project that we do,” she said. “We have a ball doing it, and you know, when you help somebody else it makes you feel better about yourself. We probably get more out of it than the people who receive what we make.”
Yoder’s Gift and Craft Shoppe, located on North Norton Avenue, was opened in 2007 in memory of Hooley’s parents, Bill and Edna Yoder. For more information on ‘Hearts and Hands’, contact the store at 256-245-7345.