A Mission With Heart
Everyone knows the feeling…an inexplicable tug at the heart that draws us to something in a way that seems beyond our control. There is an inherent curiosity, a quiet passion, a gravitational pull. And there is a distinct feeling of satisfaction and delight when we are allowed to move toward the source of it all. Most people save the objects of their joy for small crevices of time that form in the solid mass of their busy lives; but for some, the calling is so strong, the dedication so intense, they actually make it their life’s work.
Beth Carrigan is one of these people.
When she was just 5 years old, Beth was with her mother when she saw an elderly woman sitting alone at a bus stop. Worried that the woman might be lonely, she asked where the lady was going. “I don’t know,” her mother replied. “Why don’t you go ask her?” So she did, and something wonderful happened. On that day, the seeds of Beth Carrigan’s crusade to reach out to America’s seniors were planted. They just never stopped growing and twenty-five years ago, when Beth was visiting a family member in a retirement community, she noticed that many of the residents seemed to have no visitors and were living out their days in utter despair and loneliness.
Deeply moved and confident she could bring some hope and joy into the lives of these people who touched her, she began to devote more time to visiting them and watched with delight, as wilting, lonely spirits were reborn.
Inspired, Beth soon expanded her visits to include other retirement and convalescent hospitals in San Fernando Valley, California and outlying areas. As her visits expanded, so did her awareness of the needs of the country’s senior population. It became clear that more had to be done, and that she couldn’t do it alone.
Light Heart Foundation is Born
Beth established and incorporated The Light Heart Foundation in 1996. It was granted nonprofit status in 1997.
Beth’s first big effort to spread the Light involved organizing and training volunteers to make regular visits to one of the dozens of participating senior facilities. She wanted to alleviate some of the loneliness and isolation she had seen in so many elders, and to replace it with the warmth of human kindness and caring. For these all important visits, Beth succeeded recruiting spirited volunteers from all sectors of the community, including public schools, private citizens, business and industry.
Community Involvement Projects
Beth developed several projects which could offer a fun structure for the visits to the seniors and provide a variety of opportunities for the community to participate.
Ongoing Youth Service Learning Program
• Project H.U.G. ™, Helping Unite Generations
• Animals on Parade ™ Valentine’s Day Celebration
• Spring Into Caring ™
• Gardens of Good Wishes ™
• Elder Recognition Month
• Magic In Believing ™, Holiday Gift Drive
Light Heart Foundation moved to Cottonwood, Arizona in 1999 where the Foundation now orchestrates many programs and projects both in California and Northern Arizona.
In May of 2006, with friends and supporters from several communities in attendance, Light Heart Foundation celebrated its 10 year anniversary in its new regional headquarters.
Number of Senior Facilities and Schools Expand
There are now 17 senior residential facilities in the Verde Valley and 1 facility in Prescott Valley that have participated in Light Heart’s projects. In 2006, Light Heart also added seniors living at home who are participating in the Meals on Wheels Program through the Sedona Community Center and the Verde Valley Senior Center. Facilities in San Fernando, California continue their involvement.
There are over 8 schools, and several youth clubs and organizations throughout the Verde Valley that have worked with Light Heart both in its seasonal projects and in Project H.U.G., a Youth Service Learning Program.
What began as one woman’s solitary mission is turning into a movement that is gaining momentum. Enthusiasm continues to expand through the community with many Chambers of Commerce, Community Organizations, Businesses and Colleges throughout Greater Sedona /Verde Valley, Prescott Valley, and California inquiring about how to become involved.