Heart to Hand Gives Groceries Each Week to Families in Need

Sixty people thought about you and your family this week.” That sentence is part of a note that accompanies groceries provided by Heart to Hand to a family receiving CCAS services. Heart to Hand has been in the business of weekly shopping and giving since 2001.

The model is deceptively simple. There are five team captains, each with a team of twenty members. Three shop for a CCAS family and the others for two school breakfast  programs. The teams rotate weekly through a cycle of categories—perishable food, non-perishable food, meats and miscellaneous and the two school programs. The items are dropped off every Friday outside the Mueller family home and delivered by team members who have volunteered for additional duty. “Once you get into a routine it’s not a lot. It’s enough for me to keep busy and we have a system that works, “ says Carol Mueller the group’s de facto leader.

The key to the process is the personal touch. Each Wednesday, Carol telephones the recipient family. Together they customize a standard grocery list according to the family’s likes and dislikes, culture, and food allergies. Carol also takes careful note of anything else the family mentions that they need. Significant details and the grocery list are recorded in an e-mail and sent to the captains, each of whom provides the family information and an item from the grocery list to their members. “Everyone is already grocery shopping,” says Carol, “there’s no extra effort to put an extra item in your cart.”

Volunteer loyalty to the program is extraordinary because of the meaningful connection to families and the program’s simplicity. There are no regular meetings or monthly obligations and the weekly e-mails are an easy way to connect. “People have been with us for years,” says Carol, “we’re looking for a way to give which allows for a personal  connection. ”That connection can be so strong that Carol encourages members to set a weekly budget and stick to it because there are always more ways to give. The group will organize backpack, mitten and clothing drives among many other activities. Members can opt out of any initiative.

The program is virtually snag-free—almost. One day, in a daring daylight raid, raccoons got into the drop-off bins that reside outside the Mueller’s garage. “Flour was everywhere. My daughter tried to rinse out the bins with the garden hose. The result was an incredible gooey mess that took days to clean,” says Carol.

As the holidays approach, Heart to Hand’s planning and shopping expands. They create holiday boxes including a grocery card, and gifts for each family member. The shopping is supplemented with donations from Shoppers Drug Mart, Kraft, and Pepsico who provide food donations and small gifts. Accolade Reaction Promotion Group provides moving boxes and all the tape. Heart to Hand gets school classrooms involved as well. Last year, 156 families received boxes.

“It’s a sight to see—the human chain that moves the boxes from ground zero in the basement, out the door and into the truck,” says Carol. What a wonderful image to represent Heart to Hand. Special thanks to the Team Captains: Anne Cowie, Carolyn Langill, Diane Throop, Julia Hall, Carol Mueller and Jane Stodgell, founding member who passed away this summer.