Heart and Hands will close doors for good

PLYMOUTH — Heart and Hands, a non-profit organization with offices in Plymouth and Bremen, announced Friday that they will close for good. Director Rebecca Griffy stated that there were several indicators that the time had come to dissolve the agency.
“Student enrollment has steadily dropped over the last four years, due in part to (the organization) having educated over 2,000 people in Marshall County," said Griffy. "These past students are now helping others.”
Griffy also referred to the Pew Hispanic Research Center’s report from April indicating the increased reverse migration to Mexico as another factor.
“But as with many non-profit organizations, we too have seen financial hard times," added Griffy.
She noted that 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," said Griffy. "In fact, (we) have worked (ourselves) out of a job."
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 the organization 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 were also funded by two consecutive Lilly CAPE grants. Additionally, Heart and Hands 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 of the Annual Latino Festival for ten years. The one-day event was held in Centennial Park and brought over 6,000 to the area.
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 2,000 students in the many different educational opportunities such as English, GED, computer classes, and more.
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.