Lending a helping hand

Hearts and Hands United helps families with the Tools for School drive

A volunteer helps a child pick out and try on shoes for the upcoming school year at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. Over 1500 children were helped at the Tools for School event. Elijah Poe, DN
A volunteer helps a child pick out and try on shoes for the upcoming school year at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. Over 1500 children were helped at the Tools for School event. Elijah Poe, DN

For the past 14 years, Hearts and Hands United has hosted the Tools for School drive. Each year thousands of families are helped throughout the event. 

Tools for School gives out school necessities such as shoes, backpacks, school supplies and jeans.

Hearts and Hands United also partnered with Safari Dental to give out free teeth cleanings and dental screenings, as well as partnering with Open Door for free immunizations and $25 sports physicals. 

A child receives a free dental cleaning from Safari Dental at the Tools for School event. The event also offered free immunizations and checkups for those in need. Elijah Poe, DN

Tools for School started as nonprofit organizations, Christian ministries, Muncie Mission and more. Churches dropped off and took care of one class for grade school donations. Kay Walker, the president of Hearts and Hands United, said they stayed afloat with lots of hands, help, and big hearts. 

The first years of the event were limited to around 200 children helped, last year they helped 1700-2000 children. 

This year it helped 1589 children. 

A line forms to get into Tools for School, at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. Over 1,500 children were helped at the event. Elijah Poe, DN

“We take donations from all over Delaware County,” Walker said. “We have a big fundraiser kickoff fundraiser in May, at Amazing Joe's, and we've been doing that for 10 or 11 years. We work with people in the community that will donate and volunteer.”

Al Holdren and his family have been involved for the last 13 years in Tools for School. He and his wife took over the shoe side (there is a backpack side as well) for Hearts and Hands United. 

“When my wife and I took over, we [would] do fundraising for about 75% of the shoes that are given away and then also organize that area,” Holdren said. “We just really take over that whole area for them as far as volunteers, funding, logistics and purchasing the shoes, the whole bit.”

Holdren said the day of the event is so special because of all the work leading up to the event is able to be showcased. He said weeks before, there is already a constant shoe shopping focus at Walmart, with people looking for shoes about four times a week. 

Holdren's goal is to make it easier for parents in need so that they might not worry about getting the things like backpacks, school supplies, and shoes. 

Shoes sit lined up in order by size for volunteers to pick out for children in the Tools for School drive at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. Months of fundraising and buying shoes take place before the event each year. Elijah Poe, DN

Heather Koons took over the social media accounts for Hearts and Hands United in June, this is her second year on the board for Hearts and Hands United as well. She said she was trying to get as many people out as possible for the event. She also did a lot of fundraising in trying to get the community involved. 

This was Koons's twelfth year volunteering for the event, with a couple of years missed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The goal is to serve as many kids in the county with backpacks, school supplies, and shoes as we can,” Kooon said. “Last year we served about 1800, I think we can do more. I know there's a need.”

Koons started as a teacher at Headstart, a low-income preschool program. The families there did not necessarily have all the money to get school supplies, shoes and backpacks. She said going to this event showed her and other families that children do not have to be embarrassed about coming to school without a backpack or wearing old shoes. 

“I just enjoy seeing the joy on the kids as faces,” Koons said. “That is just the best part.”

While talking about partnerships like Safari Dental and Open Door, Koons said it was vital that more organizations are added to make this event even bigger and better. 

For Walker, a big goal and necessity of the event is to fulfill children with their needs for the school year. She said if a child has basic necessities for the start of school they will prosper, they need the tools, and Tools for School wants to make sure they get those tools. 

“It makes your heart swell,” Walker said. “It makes your heart swell to see that there are so many good people in our community, and we take care of one another and I think that's what living in a community is about. It is taking care of one another, and realizing the needs of your fellow neighbor, friend, or employee. You realize those needs and we just all come together to make it happen.”

Holdren said the event is a blessing. A blessing for the community and the volunteers. He said a lot of communities do not have this and it is great to see people set up and really can enough about their community to make it better. 

“That's all we're doing, we're making a little corner of it [the community] better, but it's our corner and we're going to protect it and we're going to do everything we can,” Holdren said.

To donate, you can go to the Hearts and Hands Untied website where there will be contact information. They can also contact township trustee Kay Walker if they would like to be involved in any way. 

“It is human kindness is what it is,” Kay Walker said.

Contact Elijah Poe with comments at elijah.poe@bsu.edu or on X @ElijahPoe4.


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