Have-A-Heart Project was started by one woman hoping to make a positive difference in the lives of children in the Adams County District 50.
Supported through the years by Westminster residents, the nonprofit continues to be a resource for families in the district.
Jo Smith organized the project in December 1996 after learning about a homeless family living in a car.
As a former District 50 school board member, she said, she knew the needs of students who came to school without coats and with empty bellies.
She wanted to make a difference, so with the help of Westminster Presbyterian Church and District 50, the Have-A-Heart Project was born.
“The mission of Have-A-Heart continues to provide food, clothing, school supplies and personal-hygiene items to the children of District 50 so they may achieve their academic potential,” she said/
Have-A-Heart was recently the recipient of donations from the July 28 Colorado Cares Day, when Coloradans come together through service projects that strengthen communities.
The Westminster City Council was on hand for its annual community-service project, partnering with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to sort and gather food and clothing donated to the Have-A-Heart Project.
Westminster Mayor Nancy McNally said the Colorado Cares event was the perfect opportunity for council to step in and lend a helping hand.
“We are out here gathering all of these great donations. We’ve gone through at least 70 boxes, and more people are stopping by,” she said. “Have-A-Heart is a great organization, and we are happy to help.”
Larry Hickman, president of the Westminster stake for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said it was good to partner with other agencies to help the community.
“It’s been a nice experience working with other people,” he said. “There is a lot of need in the state, and Colorado Cares Day is a great way to help the community.”
Debbie Smith, president of the Have-A-Heart Project and daughter of Jo Smith, said it takes hundreds of volunteers to keep the organization running.
From people who are court-ordered to donate time, to community-service projects, to Eagle Scout projects, Smith said, all of the volunteers make a huge difference, and every penny the organization receives goes straight to the students of District 50.
“The Presbyterian Church has also been instrumental from the very first day in supporting us financially and with volunteers,” Smith said. “The church ladies hang clothes two to five times a week and sort out the old clothes that we give to other charities. The clothes sorting is a thankless, nasty job.”
To qualify to receive items from Heave-A-Heart, one must be a resident of District 50, have a child enrolled in the school district and have a completed federal-income form.
Debbie said all the schools in the district know the program’s requirements and can assist families in completing the form. Free services and resources include food, clothing, personal-hygiene products, house-cleaning products, school supplies and English-speaking classes.
The resource center is open to qualified families from 8-10:30 a.m. the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. Donations can be dropped off 1-4 p.m. on Thursdays at the center, 3455 W. 72nd Ave. in Westminster.
“The best part of being involved in Have-A-Heart is the kids,” Smith said. “Their faces are priceless when they realize they can have two toys, or as many books as they want. Or even just a new pair of shoes.”
For more information on Have-A-Heart go online http://haveaheart4kids.com or contact Smith at