Linden Hills Hearts share the love

In two hours per Saturday, kids’ group raises funds for good causes

If you had two hours and a dozen or so laughing, running, giggling kids at your disposal, could you change the world? Yeah, you could. The children and parents who are the Linden Hearts Kids’ Club prove it every month.

The kids, ages 2 through 11, get together on the first Saturday of each month at the Linden Hills Park Neighborhood Center, 3100 W. 43rd St. This month, they made dove banks they dropped off at businesses throughout Linden Hills. Through the third week of December, people can put their tax-deductible contributions in the banks to help the Joyce Uptown Food Shelf, 3041 Fremont Ave. S.

One club member, Chloe Rich, is a budding poet. Each bank the kids put out this year carries her inscription: "I heard it from a little dove, we need some food to share the love."

Chloe Rich dismisses the notion that writing such a nice couplet might be difficult. "No one thought of a poem," she said, "So I just quickly thought of one."

She does recognize the power of her words, however. "When people read the poem, they can drop money into the bank and stuff."

Last year, Linden Hearts raised over $3,500 for the food bank, earning them the eternal gratitude of Joyce’s Director, Jean McGrath.

"We’re amazed and just so pleased when these kids do this," McGrath said. "They’re really helping their peers because we help so many children here."

McGrath said that the food bank is able to buy a pound of food for 18 cents, which means the Linden Hearts Kids helped stock the shelves with over 19,000 pounds of food last year.

The group hopes to be able to raise even more money this year.

The Kids’ Club has also raised money for Habitat for Humanity; the Linden Hills Library, 2900 W. 43rd St.; and Minnesota Food Share, 1001 E. Lake St.; in addition to doing an Earth Day cleanup.

Heidi Rich, the mother of Chloe and three other Linden Hearts kids, helps coordinate the group’s activities, but she says the real credit belongs to the children.

"Every event we do is done by the kids," Heidi Rich said. "The parents don’t want to be the boosters, doing all the work in the name of the kids. The kids really make these banks. They really distribute them. When we walk around, they’re the ones who talk to the business owners."

Maya Christensen, 9, is one of the dozen or so core members of Linden Hearts. She was at Linden Hills Park on a recent Saturday morning with her friends and family, getting ready to spread the dove banks around the neighborhood.

"I like to help the community," she said. "I like to be a part of helping people. It’s just fun."

Her friend, Madelaine Foster, also 9, agreed.

"I’m here because I like to help," she said as her little sister, Olivia, 5, giggled and pushed her head into big-sister’s side.

"You have to learn not to be a nut job when you’re being interviewed," Madelaine advised Olivia.

The three girls all laughed as Olivia continued to plow her head playfully into her sister.

That’s the kind of fun you can have when you’re changing the world.

Heidi Rich said she and parents from four other families who live near each other formed the loosely organized group 18 months ago. She’s aware some people might dismiss the do-good efforts of kids from one of the city’s most affluent areas.

"It’s not just in a bubble of overprivileged, indulged children doing cute things to satisfy themselves," she said, before adding with a laugh, "It’s overprivileged children doing those things and maybe doing a little activism, too."

Rich said the kids get a sense of empowerment from their Linden Hearts activities and achievements. They learn that they can be positive forces in the world and that they have part of the responsibility for making the world a better place.

For kids to feel that power, Rich said, their parents and society at large must recognize the children as citizens worth listening to.

She said kids "are not ghosts or shadows or pets to us. They’re really valuable members of our community. They’re participating members. So from the beginning, they really understand their opinions and their efforts really matter. Hopefully, they’ll carry that everywhere they go."

She said that keeping the group’s efforts to two hours per session helps the kids maintain focus and keeps the good work from dragging.

"It’s really truly amazing that so much can be accomplished in such a short amount of time," she said.

"If we tried to give it more structure, and if we imposed more rules, it would not work. It’s loose and fun and very little time commitment. A lot of bang for your buck."