EDITORIAL | What a way to spend the day

As this is written a beautiful day is forecast for the Pacific Northwest and Whidbey Island. The sun will be shining, people will be picnicking, fishing, gardening, shopping, relaxing in their lawn chairs and traveling to see friends and relatives.

Only on Whidbey Island will scores of volunteers, armed with big hearts and heavy hammers, dedicate the entire day to helping others. Hearts & Hammers has grown to become one of South Whidbey’s great traditions, one in which we take great pride.

There’s no sense in embarrassing the founders by again pointing them out by name, but they sure had a great idea years ago and executed it to perfection. Hearts & Hammers is arranged like a military campaign, with a captain designated to head each platoon as they meet and organize at the high school, then fan out to attack 35 houses with hammers, nails, shovels, roofing, gravel, windows, door frames — whatever is needed to bring the homes of the poor and needy up to snuff.

At day’s end, all return to the high school for a well-deserved meal, plaudits all around, and to bask in the enjoyment of a day well spent helping others.

Homeowners literally become tearful as they watch Hearts & Hammers volunteers save their homes from further deterioration, bring them up to code and give them a new lease on life. Building materials and labors don’t come cheap, and the combined amount donated by Hearts & Hammers each year is monumental.

The entire community chips in, with contractors donating construction knowledge, businesses donating materials and people from all backgrounds donating their labor. If they can’t hit a nail on the head with a hammer, they’re put to work cleaning gutters, scrubbing decks or clearing driveways. No one offering to help is turned away.

It’s touching to see people of such diverse skills, interests and ages working together. Teenagers work side-by-side with retirees with the common goal of making life a little easier for someone else. The retirees go away knowing they’re still useful to their community, and the kids learn about the joys of community service at a tender age. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, as the kids learn service at a young age and continue it throughout their lives.

It’s too late to volunteer to help this year, but money is always needed to prepare for next year’s Hearts & Hammers. Donate on its website or send a check to PO Box 694 Langley, WA 98260. Then next year, give back to yourself by joining one of the Hearts & Hammers crews.

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