As we reflect on some of the amazing work that Heightened Hearts has completed in the past year, one event that stands out to us is our Thanksgiving 2017 Food Basket drive. While our organization offers support through items and supportive programs across the globe, this Thanksgiving we focused on supporting some of the neediest families we have right here at home.
Looking at Miami, it can sometimes be hard to believe how many families we have living with extreme needs. Despite having some of the most beautiful beaches and bustling businesses, Miami also has a household poverty rate of almost 30%, and over half of our children also live under the poverty line. We know that for many of these families, food insecurity, not knowing when or how they will have their next meal, is a frightening reality. Not unless we do our part to provide support.
In the weeks leading up to the food drive, the Heightened Hearts team began the work of making our dream a reality. Our first task was to find a location that could support our food drive. Two of our volunteers, Claudia and Dmitriy Smirnov, assisted by contacting local churches and finding a site that would allow us to make and distribute baskets to those in need. We are so blessed and thankful to have connected with Robert Soto, Priest of the Trinity Cathedral Church and his gracious act of opening his church to us as the perfect location for the drive in heart of downtown Miami.
With the support of donors and the unsurpassable dedication of our volunteers, we were able to set a goal of 50 food baskets. Our next step was to ensure we reached the families most in need of this support. Dmitriy and Claudia once again stepped in, making phone calls and completing screening questionnaires with families to create our list of 50 families. Robert Soto was also able to link us with families from his congregation that would benefit from our help.
Finally, it was time to put together our food baskets. The baskets included the kinds of items that families could use as pantry staples – things like pasta, flour, rice, canned meat and vegetables, and even some treats for the children. We also recognized that household supplies are a huge need for families, so we included items like paper towels, laundry detergent, and other necessities. Most of our families were able to come and pick up their baskets that day – for those who couldn’t, we made sure to deliver them to their homes in time for Thanksgiving.
One of our favorite moments from this event wasn’t planned or expected: A family picking up their basket informed us of a single mother of four children who was also in need. We knew we had to do something to help. So, Dmitriy and Claudia, in the true spirit of what Heightened Hearts is all about, drove 40 minutes to their home on Thanksgiving Day to provide a food basket – they even purchased a turkey on the way there!
Our Thanksgiving Food Basket program would not have been a success without the time given by our volunteers. Thank you to the team who made this event possible – Lyubov Smirnov, Dmitriy Smirnov, Claudia Smirnov, Larry McGuinness, Soraya Regalado, Mario Louis, Gabby Dominguez, Ernesto Dominguez, Alina Smirnov and her beautiful 12-year-old daughter, Sasha Smirnov, who was at the center of everyone helping to put together baskets. And a special thank you to Jan Freire and Adam Rodriguez for supporting us with their photography and videography services to help us capture the power of good this program bestowed on the families who received support.
For programs like our Thanksgiving Food Basket drive and others to be possible, we need your help! Please help us spread the word about Heightened Hearts through social media, donating what you can, and giving back through volunteering! There is no greater feeling than the one of giving without expectation and no greater purpose than taking action to assist those who most need our help.