05/25/12 The Heart and Hands brochure has a quote from Cesar Chavez that reads “Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed.  You cannot uneducated the person who has learned how to read…”  For the past 11 years that is exactly what heart and Hands has done.  In fact they have worked themselves out of job.  As a result, Heart and Hands director Rebecca Griffy, with support from the board of directors, announced Friday that the non-profit organization with offices in Plymouth and Bremen will be closing its doors for good.

Griffy stated there were several indicators that the time had come to dissolve the agency.  “Student enrollment has steadily dropped over the last four years” Griffy said, “Due part to having educated over 2000 people in Marshall County and these past students are now helping others.”  She also referred to the Pew Hispanic Research Center’s report from April indicating the reverse migration to Mexico as another factor.  “But as with many non-profit organizations, we too have seen financial hard times”.  She said

Heart and Hands began in 2001 working with immigrants. The organization was born out of a Marshall County Community Leadership program. In 2000, a handful of people began teaching English in a local church basement a few evenings a week and it grew from that small beginning. In June 2001 they received their 501(c)(3) status and $6,000 in start up money from the Marshall County Community Foundation and then were funded by two consecutive Lilly CAPE grants and is currently a United Way agency.  The initial goal of the organization was to provide ESL classes (English as a Second Language) to non-English speakers.  In addition to teaching English it also became necessary to provide direct services that included help with translations.  Additional classes were soon added. Heart and Hands was the host the Annual Latino Festival for ten years, held in Centennial Park and brought over 6000 to the one day event.

Since those first days of operation, Heart and Hands has seen the development of positive Latino leadership in the community; the leaders are mostly alumni of the Heart and Hands programs. Many began from no English skills, little self confidence, low income or a combination of these hurdles. Today, Heart and Hands has enrolled over 2000 students in the many different educational opportunities such as English, GED, Computer, etc.

Classes have ended and the last awards banquet was held Thursday evening.  The office will remain open with a projected date of closing of August 15th.  The organization is in the process of planning a farewell celebration for the community and wants to thank all who have helped make this project a success throughout the years.