HEARTS for the Holidays

The Eagle Mountain West Stake agrees that service blesses the lives of every individual involved. Through a program called HEARTS for the Holidays, members of the stake reach out to those in need during the holiday season. The acronym HEARTS stands for Hope, Edification, And Relief Through Service, and sums up what the project is all about. "It's an amazing program," says stake Relief Society counselor Shauna Vorkink. "I am glad to have the opportunity to participate in it. It is a witness of our Savior's love for us, and it's a great way to help others feel that love." The stake began the program three years ago as a way to provide presents through donations for families at Christmastime. In 2006, Shauna suggested the idea to Stake President Dee Harold Draper, who asked that the needs of the young growing community be met. Kim Brown has been involved all three years, first as a member of the Relief Society presidency, and later as the stake humanitarian specialist responsible for the program. "It seems everyone in the stake works towards donating to HEARTS for the Holidays," Kim says. "Elders quorums make doll houses or book shelves, and Primary children donate change that they have earned at home to be used towards gift cards or to buy shoes to donate. Families want to help, and wards want to be involved." And they've seen how HEARTS for the Holidays has brought those in the Eagle Mountain West Stake closer together. Once everything is ready, the families who would benefit are invited to participate. The family is kept confidential, and a member of their ward leadership meets them at the stake center. The building is filled with gifts and necessities--shoes, quilts, toys, house wares, computers, books, and tables. Afterwards there is a meeting with the stake humanitarian specialist to discuss any additional needs. Any specific requests are satisfied with gift cards. Once the gifts are chosen, trailers transport them to the family's home where they can be wrapped and prepared for Christmas. "Every year it seems like there are so many families that we start to get nervous, but in the end we always end up having enough," Kim says. The program began with 40 families participating, last year 100, and this year about 150 are expected. When everyone gives just a little, it adds up. "People underestimate the good they can do, even through small acts," says Shauna. There's even so much that Stake Relief Society President Diane Smith says that there are often many things left over. A Samoan family from the stake boxes up remaining items, and they are shipped to Samoa. "Miracles happen with this particular program," Diane says. "I have seen the pure love of Christ through this program of giving, and HEARTS for the Holidays has become quite a beautiful experience."
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