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HELPING HEARTS: Teen-led nonprofit group remembers nursing home residents for Christmas

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SALYERSVILLE - A Magoffin County teenager made the holidays a little brighter for residents at the local nursing home.

Kisha Ann Collinsworth, a 16-year-old junior at Magoffin County High School, told the Independent, “Around Christmas we hear about toy drives for kids, coats for children, books for toddlers, etc., but I never really heard about anyone doing anything for the elderly.”

Collinsworth’s grandfather is a pastor and has church services at Salyersville Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, so she had heard the stories about some of the residents enjoying the service, the prayer and the company.

“It just made me realize that they are often forgotten when they shouldn’t be,” Collinsworth said.

The teenager attributes her drive for helping others to her brother, Tate, who was born in 2015 with Trisomy 21, better known as Down syndrome. 

“He gave my family an entirely new perspective on life,” Collinsworth said. “I’ve seen my mom go above and beyond to promote awareness and that gave me the drive to want to help others.”

Collinsworth started the group “Helping Hearts” in September, then created a Facebook page where she started asking for donations.

After seeing her post, the Southern Brothers Motorcycle Club, which has five chapters in Kentucky and one in Virginia, reached out to her and gave a significant monetary donation, and members from the Morgan County chapter gave their time to help deliver the gifts. 

Southern Brothers Motorcycle Club - Morgan County Chapter’s Vice President Doug “Druid” Lyon told the Independent their organization has always prided itself on helping the community, especially children, veterans and seniors.

As soon as Druid saw what Collinsworth was trying to do, he talked to his brothers and invited her to come to one of their churches (what they call their monthly meetings).

After meeting with her before church, they immediately decided to help.

“We had an absolutely wonderful time visiting with the residents and Tabatha and the staff made us feel very welcome,” Druid said. “When most people see guys, all tattooed up with a three-piece patch on, they immediately think they are a bunch of outlaws and thugs. Yes, we are a motorcycle club, we live a certain lifestyle, but at the end of the day, we have families, we have jobs and, yes, we have heart. If we don’t take care of our kids, seniors and vets who will?”

The Southern Brothers Motorcycle Club has told Collinsworth she has been adopted into the SBMC family and they plan to work with her for many years to come.

Collinsworth said, “Helping Hearts was a long process that definitely forced me to come out of my comfort zone many different times, but it is an experience I will never forget. The memories and friends I made are irreplaceable.”

Giving to the residents at the nursing home was more rewarding that she had imagined.

“Walking into the residents’ rooms and being told that I gave them one of the few Christmas gifts they received just warmed my heart in a whole new way,” Collinsworth said. “They are so thankful for everything, even if it’s just a little coloring book or a small bottle of lotion, they appreciate it all.”

The high school junior said she plans to make Helping Hearts an annual thing, with hopes of making it bigger and better each year.

“I know with such a supportive community, that will happen,” Collinsworth said.

She noted that she will also be volunteering at the nursing home going forward, noting one resident specifically stands out to her throughout the experience.

“There was a little lady that asked me to help her,” Collinsworth remembered. When we were opening her basket, I noticed that she loved everything in it. Anytime I would get something out, she would have the sweetest reactions, ‘Aw, I love it,’ or ‘that is so cute.’ She had a little ring in her basket and she was a little upset because she couldn’t wear any of her rings anymore. When she was telling me about it, she slipped the ring on and went, ‘Oh my goodness. Would you just look. It’s beautiful. It feels like it was made just for me.’ She was so happy. There was nothing like it.”

Collinsworth said she went back to the woman later in the evening to get a picture with her. 

“She didn’t really remember me,” Collinsworth said. “However, she still had her ring on. When Tabatha told her that I was the one who gifted her the ring her face lit up. It was priceless.” 

Collinsworth said she received a lot of support from the community, but especially wanted to thank the Southern Brothers Motorcycle Club and the Fritz Church of God, both of which helped monetarily and with handing out the gifts. 

Tabatha Mann with the Salyersville Nursing and Rehabilitation Center told the Independent about the visit from the Helping Hearts crew.

“On December 27 our residents were visited by a wonderful group of gifters: Kisha Ann Collinsworth director of Helping Hearts, Southern Brothers Morgan Co. Chapter, Fritz Church of God and Tom Mansilette.” Mann said. “Kisha, along with the help of these and many more, has worked diligently all year to ensure our residents received a gift of love from Helping Hearts. I am so grateful for the love that was shown that night by all. Our residents definitely touched some hearts and made some new friends. What a wonderful group of people to work with!”

To follow the work of Helping Hearts or to get involved, check out their Facebook page for the nonprofit organization by searching “Helping Hearts.”
 

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Heather Oney

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