Helping Hands for Little Hearts is a non-profit organization in Flower Mound with the mission to help families and children in need of support who are experiencing hardships due to unexpected, sudden life-changing circumstances and events.
In 2014, Amanda and Graham Gochneaur watched helplessly as their close friends experienced every parent’s worst nightmare — their 5-year-old son being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
“We witnessed first-hand how quickly a family can go from being comfortable to suddenly unable to manage daily family activities due to circumstances outside of their control,” Amanda said. “The financial burdens that accompany this news can be devastating, and a family’s lifestyle can drastically change, even for the most well-planned family.”
Stepping in to help their friends, Amanda and Graham started a Go Fund Me campaign to raise funds to support their friends through financial stress.
“Our eyes were opened to the severity of this life-changing event and the emotional and physical toll it was taking on them,” Amanda said. “We couldn’t stop thinking of the thousands of other families going through similar circumstances without a strong support group to help them through.”
Amanda and Graham co-founded Helping Hands for Little Hearts with the mission to help as many families in crisis as possible, no matter the cause of the hardship.
Since its inception, Helping Hands for Little Hearts has grown to meet the needs of the community through four programs – Helping Hands Now, Power Snacks, Little Angels, and Happy Campers. Helping Hands Now is an emergency relief program for families going through hardship. Power Snacks provides snacks to food-insecure students. Little Angels provides gifts to families in need. Happy Campers is a scholarship program that helps children attend spring break and summer camps.
The Power Snacks program was born following a conversation with a friend who is an educator with Denton Independent School District, where Amanda and Graham learned a big need in the community is food insecurity.
“We asked what the students need, and she said they need food — they’re hungry all of the time,” Amanda said. “A lot of them only get one or two meals a day, and then they see their friends are sent to school with snacks and they don’t have anything. We thought if we can provide snacks for kids, then that’s just another avenue to be able to reach more kids and more families.”
Currently, the Power Snacks program is providing snacks to about 6,000 students every month.
“We started with two schools, and now we’re at 30 schools this month in three different school districts,” Amanda said. “We have a waitlist of schools that want to be in this program because we’re seeing the food insecurity just continues to grow every month.”
Power Snacks is about more than just the food it provides. Amanda said the stress of not knowing where their next meal is going to come from causes a lot of issues with students not being able to focus in class.
“Having Power Snacks on the Corinth Elementary campus has been a game changer for our students,” said Bailey Skinner, Communities in Schools of North Texas Site Coordinator. “It is amazing to see how one snack can make someone’s mood go from down in the dumps to motivated and happy so quickly. Students know that they have a place that they can count on to have a snack when they are hungry, and that’s all thanks to Helping Hands for Little Hearts.”
The feedback Helping Hands for Little Hearts has received from school personnel is that the snacks also open a door for counselors and teachers to have conversations with students in need.
“One of my students struggles with food insecurity at home and comes in every day to grab snacks because he knows that we will always have something on hand for him,” said Jessica Mier, a Denton High School educator. “Sometimes at the end of the month, he will gladly take any and all leftover snacks that aren’t as popular, and he shares them with his younger siblings who don’t have a power snack program at their schools.”
The ultimate goal of Power Snacks is to be able to serve 10,000 students in the next two years. Helping Hands for Little Hearts needs their community to host snack drives, to donate, and to volunteer with the organization.
“We’re actively looking for volunteers to help us deliver to different schools,” Amanda said. “One of the issues we find ourselves having is that we have the snacks, just not enough people to deliver those snacks to the actual schools for students.”
Helping Hands for Little Hearts is completely volunteer-run, and everything donated stays in the local community and goes directly to the students served.
To get in contact with Helping Hands for Little Hearts or to find more information, visit their social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram, their website or join their newsletter.
4305 Windsor Centre Trl #400, Flower Mound, TX, 75028