Helping Hands Harvest Festival returns this weekend | PostIndependent.com

Helping Hands Harvest Festival returns this weekend

Caitlin Causey
Post Independent contributor

This Tuesday, the ladies of Helping Hands gathered as they do every week at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs. Papers, notes and warm coffee cups filled their table in the church's fellowship hall as they discussed final plans for their annual Harvest Festival fundraiser.

"The Harvest Festival is such a fun time," said member Yvonne Henderson. "But it's a lot of work for us, too."

Also on the meeting agenda: birthdays. Two of the group's founding members, Jeanne Furman and Ruth Nelson, were celebrating 94 years of life. As a surprise chocolate cake was placed in front of them and then passed around in gooey squares, the group's deep commitment to friendship was obvious. These are women who care about their community — and each other.

It comes as no surprise, then, that one of Helping Hands' primary goals is to raise funds for local charities and nonprofit organizations. Officially founded in 1995, the group held its very first Harvest Festival benefit shortly after forming. Soon they began distributing its proceeds to local individuals in need.

"Our first Harvest Festival raised exactly $2,184," said group historian and founding member Trudy Milcan. "Every year, we saw that number get a little higher and higher."

The group's all-time total of donations raised and given back to the community?

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$128,190. And 97 cents.

"We started out just helping certain people," said treasurer Marlis Laursoo, who along with Milcan has kept detailed records over the years. "We helped someone get a wheelchair and helped with hearing aids. We also gave to victims of the Coal Seam Fire who lost their homes."

Today, Helping Hands proudly donates to a wide variety of local groups, including Advocate Safe House, River Bridge Regional Center, LIFT-UP, YouthZone, Feed My Sheep, Family Visitor Programs and Habitat for Humanity.

Although the ladies do raise funds during their annual springtime dinner with its fun entertainment and home-cooked menu, much of the group's success is centered around proceeds from their Harvest Festival. What started as a small rummage sale has grown over the past 20 years to a large event featuring artisan goods, secondhand treasures and a smorgasbord of edible treats. This year, the event — held 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday at the church — will be bigger than ever before.

"This year with all the artists it's going to be different — we've got 15 or 16 artists coming," Henderson noted. "They will be doing different crafts, from basket weaving to pottery to jewelry and metalwork — just all kinds of things."

Additionally, the festival will feature "Grandma's Attic," a sale of gently used items donated by church members.

Tasty creations like jams, jellies, baked goods and pies straight from members' kitchens will also be available for purchase. And for a modest tab of $3 for breakfast or $6 for lunch, visitors can sample homemade cinnamon rolls, hot beverages, soups and other items prepared with love by many of Good Shepherd's 120 member families.

"People should definitely come to eat soup for lunch — we have so many different kinds," said group member Karin White. "Chicken noodle, vegetarian, butternut squash, a couple different chilis. All kinds — for every taste, really. We have some good cooks in this church."

All proceeds from the Harvest Festival will, of course, go straight to Helping Hands' selection of local nonprofits.

As their weekly Tuesday meeting drew to a close, the ladies took a few minutes to reflect on the role the group has played in each of their lives. The nine women in attendance agreed that Helping Hands has not only filled their schedules with worthy activities, but with precious time devoted to fostering cherished friendships.

"Everyone here is so joyful; these are such happy, talented people, and I just feel privileged to be here," said member Judy Wadyko.

"This is a wonderful place to make very good friends," member Dorothy McLaren agreed. "These gals are something special."

Milcan, who has been with Helping Hands since its first meeting 20 years ago, echoed her fellow members' sentiments.

"I love this church, and what we do with our group," she said. "It is family."

For more information, like Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on Facebook or visit http://www.GoodShepLutheran.org.

IF YOU GO…

Who: Helping Hands

What: Harvest Festival

When: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday

Where: Good Shepherd Lutheran Chuch in Glenwood Springs

How much: $3 for homemade cinnamon rolls and hot beverages from 8 to 10 a.m.; $6 for homemade soup, roll, beverage and dessert 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.