In a Heartbeat


When Amy saw the plight of those homeless babies, she cried. Then she went into action.
(This information is provided by residents and staff members of the family shelter in Salt Lake City, Utah.)
Giving with your heart feels good. Giving with your hands builds resources. Giving with your mind makes sense. But giving with all of yourself makes a difference. (From a homeless shelter brochure.)

In a Heartbeat

“If I can make life a little easier for someone, I’ll do it in a heartbeat,” Amy Gardner says, with a big smile. And that’s exactly what she did for some homeless children in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Amy, who was 16 at the time, went with her Mutual group, from the Holladay Tenth Ward of the Salt Lake Holladay Stake, to feed homeless families at the local family shelter. “I heard there was a baby in by the main desk,” Amy says. “I love babies so I went to see. When baby Heather was placed in my arms, tears came to my eyes. She was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen.” Amy spent the rest of the evening feeding and cuddling Heather.

Amy later learned about Heather’s background: her mother was in the Salt Lake County jail, and her father, who was from out of state, was waiting for his wife to make parole. Most of the time Heather was dressed only in a diaper and was hungry, not only for food but for love, too.

“When I got home and told my mom (Lindy Gardner) about Heather, I broke down and cried,” Amy says. “We went that night to the store and purchased a few items and put together a diaper bag for the baby.”

Amy continues, “The next day I went back to the shelter hoping I would find Heather. When I did, she was crying. We couldn’t comfort her. Then one of the ladies that works at the shelter asked Heather’s father if she could be hungry. His response was, ‘She’s had two bottles of water today.’”

The workers at the shelter gave Heather’s father a box of formula and other items to help him take care of his baby daughter. But Amy left heartbroken. “I was a wreck,” Amy says. “I cried all the way home.” Through all the tears and anguish, however, Amy was working on a plan to put together diaper bags for other homeless babies. So, “in a heartbeat,” she launched her plan.

That Sunday, Amy talked in her ward Relief Society about her experience and asked for help. “The response was tremendous!” Amy exclaims. “I even got calls from other stakes.” Amy also contacted a local hospital that donated most of the diaper bags. She sent out fliers in her neighborhood. And she talked to her child development teacher at Skyline High School, who offered extra credit to any student who brought in items.

Donations began to flood the Gardner home. Amy turned her missionary brother’s temporarily empty bedroom into a warehouse. “I had a shelf or a section of the room for each item, like in a department store,” Amy says. There were new bottles, pacifiers, formula, bibs, shoes, clothing, baby food, lotion, shampoo, toys, and wipes. She also washed all used clothing and blankets and sanitized the toys that came in.

By the end of the week she had filled 16 diaper bags so full she had to sit on them to get them closed. Amy says, “Besides the diaper bags we had three large plastic bags of clothes, one bag of blankets, and two boxes of toys. I even had cash left over to purchase board games and toys for the older children.”

Susan Anderson, the manager of the Family Shelter in Salt Lake City, says, “I’ll always remember Amy. I saw in her an example of so many young people in the Church who have been taught to love one another. We’re not sure what kind of heart we have until it is tested. When Amy’s heart was tested, she responded with everything she has been taught by her family and the Church.”

Amy’s attitude about helping others is capsulized in this comment: “When you think about it, we all have a lot of time. It’s what we do with our time that counts. True, I did spend every free minute for two weeks on the diaper bag project, but if you think of all the time I have, this was only a tiny pinch of it. And it was more than worth it when you see that it made a difference in a little child’s life.”

How You Can Help

Help for the homeless is needed all year round. You can involve your family, school group, or suggest to your YW–YM leaders the following ways to help:

  • Organize a drive for gloves, mittens, woolen caps, and coats during the winter months.

  • Organize a fund-raiser for milk, or children’s socks and underwear, or toys.

  • Raise funds to buy bus tokens and donate them to one of the shelters.

  • Organize and serve a meal at one of the shelters.

  • During summer months, donate fresh garden produce.

After talking with some of the residents at a family shelter, we came up with the following list of the most needed items.

  • Bottles and bottle brushes

  • Teething rings, oral gel, and pacifiers

  • Soft bristle hair brushes

  • Spoons with rubber tips

  • Socks and underwear (new)

  • Hair brushes

  • Clothing

  • Work gloves

  • Pants (sizes 30–40s)

  • Socks and underwear (new)

  • Sheets (twin to king size)

  • Ice chests

  • First-aid supplies such as Band Aids

  • Cleaning supplies, paper towels, etc.

  • Personal hygiene items

[photos] Photography by Welden Andersen