“If we all just lend a hand, we can lift some hearts.”—Melody Minagar 

HEART IN HAND is a centuries-old symbol of compassion and a willingness to help others. It combines a joyous message of SMILE-MAKING with a “happy heart” and the compassionate, others-centeredness of “let me give you a hand” NEIGHBORING. 

HEART IN HAND was used by the Shaker craft-makers who embraced a simple life of hard work and spirituality. It implies a loving welcome and visually “shorthands” (pardon that) the Shaker belief, “Put your hands to work, and your hearts to God.” 

HEART IN HAND is a prescription I often recommend in my role as “The Gerontologist of Joy.”  Many times, I am speaking with people who have looked forward to retiring from their day jobs only to find they miss “having something to get up and go do,” and they also miss the camaraderie of accomplishing positive things by teamworking with others. 

“Surprisingly, older adults are less likely to volunteer than their younger counterparts, but when seniors do volunteer, they commit more time to their volunteer activities than all other age groups,” stated Dr. Alan D. Castel in his bestselling book, “Better with Age: The Psychology of Successful Aging.” Castel continued, “In the United States, almost 25% of people over the age of 65 said that they volunteered, spending an average of 85 hours a year volunteering. (U.S. Labor Department statistics from 2017). Volunteering can bring people together to accomplish something bigger than themselves.” 

Currently in my own community, I am involved with two diverse projects which nicely dovetail for the betterment of all. One, the “2022-2023 Blitz Campaign,” is sponsored by the United Way which umbrellas financial and strategic support for 17, NEIGHBORING, heart-lifting causes in the area. The other is a stable of artists/artisans/SMILE-MAKERS from throughout north Alabama who have created original works by hand for an art show to benefit those United Way causes. 

HEART IN HAND can be seen in these examples of community-helping, local-to-me, United Way agencies, and in the work of each of the artists/artisans supporting those causes with wonderful objects they made with their hands: 

  1. HOPE HORSES/United Way partner provides therapeutic horsemanship programs to people with special physical, social, cognitive and emotional needs. One proud parent said of this NEIGHBORING organization, “My child built more muscle strength, core strength, gross and fine motor skills and better hand-eye coordination.” 

Handcraft artisan, GARY REID, still a cowboy hat-wearing, horse enthusiast at 80-plus years, makes beautiful and useful objects by repurposing worn boots, belts and other found leather. For the art show that supports the United Way partners, Reid has created a leather caddy from a “boot top” to perfectly surround a round of “Laughing Cow Cheese.” Stamped into a leather strap is the message: “LAFF EVRY DAY.” 

  1. RESTORING WOMEN OUTREACH/United Way partner is a 12-step based residential sober-living program. 

Handcraft artisans, PAIGE and BRIAN GREER, wife-and-husband jewelry designers, restore silverware and hollowware for new life as treasured finery. 

  1. NORTH ALABAMA AGRIPLEX/United Way partner serves a multi-county area by celebrating “farm heritage,” educating about “future sustainability” and supporting “healthy feeding” initiatives. 

Handcraft artisan, KATIE WESTMORELAND, is one of Alabama’s most-awarded craft/art-makers and is known for her traditional and contemporary work using gourds as her medium. Katie actually grows gourds she transforms into fine art sculpture and charming crafts. That would be like Monet growing the flax to make the linen canvases for his paintings. 

  1. GIRL SCOUTS (USA)/United Way partner prepares girls to empower themselves by acquiring practical skills. Girl Scouts earn badges for a vast variety of things from leather-crafting artistry to camping safety, community service and first aid. Girl Scouts USA promotes compassion, courage, confidence, character, entrepreneurship and active citizenship. 

Girl Scouts began more than 100 years ago in my NEIGHBORING state of Georgia by Juliette G. Low of Savannah. A dynamic, tireless, HEART IN HAND visionary, Ms. Low stated, “My purpose…to go on with my heart and soul, devoting all my energies to Girl Scouts, and HEART AND HAND with them, we will make our lives and the lives of future girls happy, healthy and holy.” 

Handcraft artisan, EMILY ROCHELLE, creates collectible works constructed with animal hides and leather-tooling. This artist/entrepreneur imbues her creations with confident styling and a naturalist love of real materials. 

  1. 4-H CLUB/United Way partner has the stated mission “to engage youth to reach their fullest potential.” Formed in 1912, the original motto was these four “H-words:” head, heart, hands and health. 

The 4-H pledge is recited at the beginning of every meeting: 

 “I pledge my head to clear thinking, 

  My heart to greater loyalty, 

  My hands to larger service, 

  And my health to better living, 

  For my club, my community, my country and my world.” 

Handcraft artisan, LELDON MAXCY, is one of Alabama’s most popular woodcrafters, regularly showing his artworks in the Birmingham and Huntsville markets and shipping custom creations throughout the USA. Leldon began his craft as a 12-year-old middle-schooler with a scrolling saw given to him by his Grandpa Elmo. 

  1. DOLLY PARTON IMAGINATION LIBRARY/United Way partner is dedicated to inspiring a love of storytelling and reading by gifting books free of charge to children from birth through 5 years old. Singer/songwriter/storyteller, Dolly Parton, was inspired to create this nonprofit organization by her father’s inability to read or write. Today, this program, which has given more than 1 million books to children, operates in my local community, in places throughout the U.S. and five countries across the world. 

“One large-scale study conducted over 20 years,” again here quoting from gerontologist Dr. Castel,  “found that regardless of income or education level, parents who have more books in the home will have children with higher levels of education” something that equates to higher income and better thinking-ability (cognition) later in life. 

Handcraft artisan, MAY DAWSEY, an avid reader, brings storybook characters, animals and inanimate objects to life through felted sculptures. Imagine a lovable, Shrek-like ogre about 3 inches tall made of squishy felt, and yummy, pastel-colored French macarons that look almost, ALMOST, good enough to eat. 

  1. HOSPICE (of Cullman County)/United Way partner provides strength, sensitivity and care for people whose fragile connection to life is threatened with illness and/or who are in the final phase of life.  

Handcraft artisan, JAN STRICKLAND, creates ceramics with simple forms such as angels and crosses that offer the power of faith and hope. Her palette is one of calming peacefulness. 

“Ceramics is the oldest form of technology that we have. After cooking meat, baking clay was the first thing humans did to chemically alter our environment on purpose,” reminds nationally recognized ceramicist, Tallie Maugham. “There is something incredibly grounding about an experience that connects you with the past like that.” 

  1. PILOT LIGHT HOME/United Way partner provides 24/7 foster home care and comfort for children and is an emergency shelter. 

Handcraft artisan, BAILEY FROST, is a textiles artist, stitching and patching together often            discarded pieces of cloth to make comforting pillows and soft goods. Her sweet-and-sassy, Alabama-designed tea towels have become collectible favorites. If Dolly Parton (see above) ever needs another “Coat of Many Colors,” someone please connect the celebrated “songteller” with the hand-sewn wizardry of Bailey Frost. 

  1. FOSTER GRANDPARENTS/United Way partner are volunteers aged 55-plus who serve as candles to gently help light the way for young children as the mature grownups become beacons of stability care and compassion. 

“Grandparents can be very special resources. Just being close to them reassures a child, without words, about change and continuity, about what went before and what will come after.”—Fred Rogers, children’s television hero 

Handcraft artisan, PAM WEAVER, crafts hand-poured candles known for skillful purity and nose-delighting fragrances that recall time-treasured experiences in natural settings of gardens, meadows and woodlands. 

  1. COMMISSION ON AGING (Cullman County)/United Way partner provides socialization, adequate nutrition and supportive services to retirees and seniors throughout the county via a network of dynamic senior center facilities augmented by such off-location offerings such as transportation and meals delivered to the homebound. 

Handcraft artisan, HOWARD KING, a retired teacher, should be known as “The King of Treen.” He is the Elvis of the “turned wood” craft. Treen, which literally means “of the tree,” is the term our American “founding fathers and mothers” of colonial times used for small, handmade, functional household objects made of wood. Before cheap aluminum canisters, then more cheaply manufactured plastic ones, even before Coca-Cola, treen was “the real thing.” Mr. King’s treen is award-winning, museum-quality and treasured by knowledgeable collectors across the USA. 

Make the connection 

HEART IN HAND connects with all four basic elements of “The S.U.N.S. (Smile-Making, Uniting, Neighboring, Spellbinding) Joyous Aging System.” Think through the activities you find SMILE-MAKING. Are there volunteer opportunities you and someone you are UNITING with closely might enjoy doing together? What are those organizations like the United Way agencies mentioned above that depend on good-hearted, NEIGHBORING volunteers to make life in your part of the world better? Among the many ways each of us can make a SMILE-MAKING difference in our community, what is some particular, positive passion like a handicraft you could commit yourself to regularly which you would find SPELLBINDING? Start where you are and start today by putting your HEART IN HAND. 


Friday, July 22, 4-8 p.m. at LELDON’S, 117 First Ave. NE, Cullman 


Supports the United Way of Cullman County 

HOLLYWOOD and CULLMAN- 100% of the profits from the new brand, LAFF EVRY DAY collection, which will be introduced at the July 22 art show, will be donated to HFC (formerly Hilarity for Charity) to support Alzheimer’s research and care.  

HFC, the Alzheimer’s nonprofit begun by Hollywood comedy legend, Seth Rogen, and his wife, Lauren Miller Rogen, has raised more than $17 million in just a few years. Much of this is through the Rogens’ Hollywood film/television/media connections and events such as stand-up comedy nights. For more information, visit www.WeAreHFC.org.  

LAFF EVRY DAY items at the July 22 Art in the Warehouse District event will include: hand-scrolled, wood journals by Leldon Maxcy, tees by Nomadic Threads, leather works by Gary Reid, LAFF EVRY DAY dips made with Laughing Cow cheese, a one-of-a-kind LAFF EVRY DAY digital photo scroll (this silent auction item will benefit the United Way), an original, LAFF EVRY DAY, jazz/rap song by local music creators Austin Archer and Ace Hamilton and more.  


“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your heart.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) 

“One flag, one land, one heart, one hand, One Nation evermore.”—Oliver Wendell Holmes 

“Let your heart feel for the afflictions and distress of everyone, and let your hand give in proportion to your purse.”—George Washington 

“Whether it be the heart to conceive, the understanding to direct, or the hand to execute.”–Junius 

“If you follow your heart, if you listen to your gut, and if you extend your hand to help another, not for any agenda, but for the sake of humanity, you are going to find the truth.”—Erin Brockovich 

“A true friend is someone who reaches for your hand and touches your heart.”—Ritu Ghatourey 

“I’ll take my heart out and hand it to you.”—Lil Wayne 

“May the hand of a friend always be near you; may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.”—Irish Blessing 


-I should have guessed my company would want to sponsor a “United Way Day of Action” to clean off the graffiti around town. The writing was on the wall. 

-My brother was doing well in his career before he started volunteering for the United Way. Now, he’s doing well and doing good. 

-Some nurses volunteer at the American Red Cross blood drive. They are free lancers. 

-The United Way needs volunteers to help with a community spaghetti supper. Please check your colanders and set aside some thyme for it. 


July 16—Will Ferrell 

July 17—Phyllis Diller 

July 18—Red Skelton 

July 19—Howard Schultz 

July 20—Omar Epps 

July 21—Robin Williams (may he rest in peace) 

July 22—Selena Gomez 

 (Photo: eatingwell.com}


                                                                 (Source: eatingwell.com) 

Each week, JOY & GERONTOLOGY shares a recipe saluting a healthy food produced in America. The delicious and nutritious collection is called “The S.U.N.S. Longevity Cookbook” and highlights vitamin B-3 (niacin), which many gerontologists believe holds the promise for a long, healthy, joyful life. 


  • Cooking spray 
  • ½ cup fine, plain yellow cornmeal 
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 tbsp. salt-free Cajun-Creole seasoning blend (such as Spice Hunter) 
  • 1 large egg 
  • 4 (5-oz.) catfish fillets 
  • ½ tsp. salt 
  • Handmade tartar sauce (see easy recipe below) and lemon wedges (optional) 


  1. Preheat oven to 450F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil and top with a wire rack. Coat the rack with cooking spray. 
  1. Stir cornmeal, flour and Cajun-Creole seasoning blend together in a large, shallow dish. Whisk egg in a separate shallow dish. 
  1. Pat fillets dry with a paper towel and sprinkle evenly with salt. Working with 1 fillet at a time, dip in the egg to coat, letting excess egg drip back into the dish. Then dredge in the cornmeal mixture, turning to coat both sides. Transfer to the prepared rack on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining fillets. Coat the tops of the fillets with cooking spray. 
  1. Bake until crispy and golden, 15 to 20 minutes, turning the fillets over and coating with cooking spray halfway through. If desired, serve with handmade tartar sauce and lemon wedges. 

                                           HANDMADE TARTAR SAUCE 

                                             (Source: allrecipes.com) 


  • 1 cup lite mayonnaise 
  • 2 tsp. sweet pickle relish 
  • 1 tsp. prepared yellow mustard 
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice 


  1. Stir all ingredients together in a bowl. 


642. Volunteering to give to United Way 

643. Volunteering to raise funds for the United Way 

644. Volunteering to create art for a good cause 

645. Volunteering to serve at a community supper 

646. Volunteering to donate “back to school” supplies 

647. Volunteering to reduce energy usage 

648. Volunteering to reduce water usage during a drought 

649. Volunteering to proofread United Way publications 

650. Volunteering to beautify highways and byways 

651. Volunteering to glean farm produce for food banks 

652. Volunteering to run/walk/crawl in a sponsored charity event 

653. Volunteering to judge a children’s writing contest 

654. Volunteering to shop with a portion of purchases donated 

655. Volunteering to adopt a shelter animal 

656. Volunteering to mentor a youth 

657. Volunteering to wash vehicles for a good, clean cause 

658. Volunteering to teach another how to play a musical instrument 

659. Volunteering to serve on the advisory board of a nonprofit 

660. Volunteering to perform a musical show for a cause 

661. Volunteering to make care packages for those in the military 

662. Volunteering for community park cleanup 

663. Volunteering to make valentines for everyone in assisted living 

664. Volunteering to be a blood donor and ultimately an organ donor