It was Pete Seeger who said it best when he sang:
If I had a hammer
I’d hammer in the morning
I’d hammer in the evening
All over this land
I’d hammer out danger
I’d hammer out a warning
I’d hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land
Perhaps the folks of South Whidbey should consider that song their anthem. They’ve been putting its message into action for the past 18 years in a workday tradition they call “Hearts & Hammers.”
Come rain or shine, neighbors will bring their hammers and nails, rakes and shovels, their pitchforks and wheelbarrows to help neighbors this Saturday, in a day that reveals more heart than any other on the island, inspired as it is by neighborly kindness.
Ashley McConnaughey has been on the force for years as a Hearts & Hammers house captain and sees the day as more than just a maintenance exercise.
“Hearts & Hammers is so much more than fixing a porch or painting or getting a roof repaired. It’s about a moment of transformation and hope in people’s lives,” McConnaughey said. “It is a profoundly moving experience, because it is not only the families with houses who are transformed, but us volunteers, as well.”
Hearts & Hammers of South Whidbey is a force of local volunteers who repair and rehabilitate the homes of those who are physically or financially unable to do the work alone on the first Saturday of May each year. What began in 1994 as a pilot project under the sponsorship of the Langley United Methodist Church, has become an independent, nonprofit program supported by the larger community. On May 5, hundreds of local volunteers will gather with tools on hips, gloved and ready to help about 50 homeowners.
It all begins at 7:45 a.m. at South Whidbey High School in Langley, where teams gather for a morning snack to listen to the game plan provided for each of the teams by the house captains. This is also the moment when volunteers have a chance to buy some serious Hearts & Hammers bling in the form of t-shirts, hats and sweatshirts in order to look fabulously decked out with team spirit throughout the day.
After snacks, coffee and strategizing, the teams gather for one massive group photo before heading to work sites from Clinton to Greenbank.
Volunteers are reminded to prepare themselves for productivity with a sack lunch for a mid-day break and safety equipment, such as gloves, goggles, protective shoes and any tools the house captains have suggested.
Young workers from age 12 to 15 are welcome to work with their parents after signing a medical release form, while 16 to 17 year olds can work without parents, but must bring the signed medical release and parental permission form available online at www.heartsandhammers.com. House captains will collect the forms in the morning.
Everyone, including homeowners, is invited back to the high school for a delicious dinner and a wrap up of the day’s accomplishments. They will be treated to music, a slideshow of the day’s work and a delicious Cinco de Mayo feast prepared under the direction of Ivar’s chef, Craig Breenden and his crew.
Volunteers are still needed for the workday. Organizers said those who have already signed up for the work day, but have not heard back, can pick up their assignments on Saturday morning.
Donations are still needed for the Hearts & Hammers workday and can be made at the website, or by mail to Hearts & Hammers, PO Box 694, Langley, WA, 98260.