Little hands, big hearts

May 14, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

by Kevin G. Gilbert / staff photographer

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Little Hands

Laura Heuer believes you're never too old to learn, and she knows for a fact you're never too young to learn how to give.

Her three young boys - 1-year-old Hunter, 4-year-old Jake and 5-year-old Dakota - have taught her that.

The Hagerstown woman has formed a group called "little hands, BIG HEARTS," in which moms and their young children take time one day a week during the summer months to help out someone else.

"Everybody wants their kids to be good kids," she said. "Nothing can make you feel better than your kids wanting to help other people. Everybody wants their kids to grow up with good hearts, and this is such an easy way to do it."


Heuer came up with the idea last summer, when she decided to make Friday a Good Deed Day for herself and her boys. All the other days already had a theme. Thursday, for example, was Doing Something New Day, when Heuer and the kids would go to a new restaurant or park.

Heuer, who moved here from Chicago three years ago, started calling local nonprofit agencies, asking if she and her children could take a tour, learn about what they did and then contribute something to their cause.

One of the trips was to Washington County SPCA, where a man let the children play with the animals and read the children stories.

"They wrestled me," Jake said of the dogs.

"We learned they needed blankets for the animals," Heuer said. "So we took them some of our old blankets."

On another trip, the family went to Goodwill Industries. The children picked toys they didn't want any more and donated them to the agency.

"It's a nice way to get the house cleaned and give at the same time," Heuer said.

As it turned out, Heuer said Fridays became as popular with the kids as all the other special days of the week.

Heuer said she learned just how much Good Deed Day meant when summer ended and the Friday visits stopped.

During the summer, Heuer and her kids had befriended Virginia Lewis, an older woman who lives nearby. Sometimes, on Good Deed Day, they visited her and took her gifts.

In return, she gave Heuer flowers and the boys apples. She taught her new friends about her gardens and the wildlife that roams her property.

One day during the winter Dakota jolted his mom back into action.

"He came to me and asked if we could do something nice for Virginia," Heuer said. "He asked if we could take her dinner and cookies. We did."

"I thought, why can't more people do these things with us? It's such a simple idea," Heuer said. "You know, there are so many things we do at Christmas time that we could do all the time."

When the word about Good Deed Day spread, other mothers began joining the group. Heuer said a preschool teacher has shown interest in the idea.

Sherrie Zlomke is one of the mothers who thinks Heuer's idea is a good one. This summer she and her children, 6-year-old Matthew and 4-year-old Kathryn, will be part of "little hands, BIG HEARTS."

"I'm really looking forward to it," she said. "I think it will be a great experience for the kids. It will teach them a lot of things - that they can help in the world - that they can make a difference. It will also teach them that not everybody has the opportunities and privileges that they have," Zlomke said.

Heuer is looking for more moms and kids, and more places to visit this summer.

"I'd like any agency willing to give us a tour and tell us how we can help them to call me," she said. "I've thought of other places I'd like to go, such as retirement homes and hospitals."

The real meaning of giving will always rest with Lewis, though. As Heuer said, the Good Deed Day idea blossomed into "little hands, BIG HEARTS" from seeds of love planted in Lewis' gardens.

During a recent visit by Heuer and the children, Lewis stood in her yard next to a stretch of bright orange poppies and reminded the family what they'd done for her.

"At Christmas Jake made me a pretty necklace," she said, looking at the boy. "You're very talented!" Then she laughed as she told Heuer she thought the socks she got from her last year were gloves, until someone told her differently. And she talked about a box of cookies the family had brought her.

"I'd forgotten about that," Heuer said.

Lewis hadn't.

Little hands, big hearts ... Heuer says together they can make a difference.

How you can participate

Laura Heuer wants to hear from mothers interested in joining "little hands, BIG HEARTS," and from nonprofit organizations that are willing to participate.

Heuer can be reached at 301-824-5260.

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