December 4, 2015

‘God won’t be outdone’: Giving spirit leads local group’s effort to share and savor the true gifts in life

As the founder of the grass-roots, non-profit organization called “Helping Hand,” Tim Hahn embraces the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people in need, especially with members of the Hispanic community. (Submitted photo)

As the founder of the grass-roots, non-profit organization called “Helping Hand,” Tim Hahn embraces the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people in need, especially with members of the Hispanic community. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

As soon as he received the request, Tim Hahn knew he had to make it happen.

And after eight years of working to help people in need, Hahn was also sure of one other thing: “Whenever you take a little leap of faith, God won’t be outdone in his generosity.”

So Hahn took another leap of faith when he recently received an e-mail from a teacher who shared the stunning reality of one of her students, a teenager with special needs, including autism.

For Hahn, what happened next is a story befitting the Christmas season—or any time when people consider the true gifts in their lives.

“He came to school and began to cry in front of her,” says the 72-year-old Hahn, who attends Mass every Sunday at the church of his childhood, Holy Cross Church in Indianapolis.

“When asked why he was so sad, he said he didn’t have a bed. Never has. He’s 15. He thought maybe lots of kids didn’t, but as he spent time at friends’ houses, he saw most kids do. But not him. She asked us for help.”

As the founder of a grass-roots, non-profit organization called Helping Hand, Hahn leads an effort every Saturday to provide food and clothing for Hispanic families in Hamilton County. Sometimes, that assistance also extends to help with rent, utility bills, medical care and other requests, including an occasional bed.

Yet when Hahn went to the organization’s storage shed and found an old, donated mattress, he decided to take a different approach. He went shopping to buy the youth a new mattress, frame and box springs.

He went to one mattress store, shared the story about the youth, and asked for a price. When he thought it was too high, he visited a second mattress store, shared the teenager’s story again, and asked the salesperson to give him the best price he could. The salesperson gave Hahn a price “very close to below cost.”

“I got the bed,” he says. “I also had a light bill and two partial rents to pay. I was stuck for $800 for the weekend.”

Still, Hahn felt good in his heart when he and his wife of 47 years, Linda, went to an early dinner with friends that same day. In the middle of their dinner, Hahn received a phone call from a number he didn’t recognize. He excused himself to take the call, heading outside the restaurant.

“This young woman said, ‘Are you Tim Hahn?’ ” he recalls. “She said, ‘I work at a boutique store in Carmel. I heard what you do, and we’d like to help. We want to give you 10 percent of our profits on Mondays for two months.’

“This would be leading up to Christmas, so I asked her, ‘How much do you think that would be?’ She said, ‘About $4,000.’ ”

Looking back on all the events of that Saturday, Hahn shares his philosophy about giving, “Whenever you take a little leap of faith, God won’t be outdone in his generosity. That always happens.”

He also shares the e-mail he received from the teacher after she went to the home of the youth when he was given the new bed—plus sheets, blankets and a pillow that was donated by a women’s Church group.

The teacher wrote, “He told me, ‘Mrs. O, I will sleep like a boss tonight!’ His mom cried so many tears. Raising a child in poverty is hard enough, but add autism to the mix and the journey is twice as difficult.

“As we walked into the living room, there is no furniture. However, there is a statue of our Blessed Mother Mary and a kneeler surrounded by beautiful candles and two rosaries. [And there was] one picture on the wall—Jesus. Wow. Just wow. This could be the best day of my life.”

Hahn says he has often had that same feeling since he started Helping Hand in 2007. But he had his doubts in the beginning—doubts that he put aside after a small act of kindness was directed toward him.

“When we started eight years ago, we had five people show up, and I’m glad there weren’t six. We didn’t have enough food. I almost quit,” Hahn recalls.

“My wife said, ‘It’s not like you to quit.’ So I tried another week. We had six people this time, and one woman brought us coffee as a way of thanking us. I thought that was so nice that I stuck with it. This Saturday, we’ll give food to about 50 families, which is about 200 people. So that’s a lot.”

For Thanksgiving, Helping Hand provided each family everything that was needed for dinner—a turkey, potatoes, cranberry sauce, vegetables, a pumpkin pie and more.

In December, Hahn’s group of about 35 volunteers distributes coats and shoes for the winter. At the beginning of the school year, they supply backpacks. And every week, after a prayer with the people, Hahn asks if anyone will be celebrating a birthday in the coming week.

“One Saturday, a young Hispanic woman came up when I asked about birthdays,” he recalls. “I put my arm around her and said, ‘Happy birthday!’ She started crying. I asked, ‘Why are you crying?’ She said it was because somebody cared. Sometimes, that cake is the only thing they get for their birthday.”

Hahn shares one more of his favorite stories, a story that evolves from a conversation that his wife Linda had with a few other women during a recent brutal winter.

“Prior to that conversation, a parishioner at Holy Cross told me he had an old car that was drivable, and he would donate it to a mom who needed it,” Hahn begins. “During this bad cold spell, some of the ladies were talking about their drives to work. They asked this one woman, ‘What about you?’ She said she rode two buses, two hours each way, to work. My wife said, ‘Is your car broke?’ She said, ‘I don’t have one.’

“I called my fellow parishioner, put the wheels in motion literally, and found a shop that looked it over. They put in a new battery and tuned it up. Then I called my insurance man—who I’ve known a long time—and asked how much it would be for insurance on the car. I told him I’d do three months of insurance. He said he would match it. I think the car is still running.”

So are the efforts of Hahn and Helping Hand.

“I think me and most Catholics I know overcomplicate religion and what Jesus wants us to do. I think feeding the poor is the key to the kingdom. The Scriptures are full of that teaching. How many times does it say to feed the poor? And Jesus did it.

“That’s what we’re here for, too.”
 

(Anyone wanting more information about Helping Hand can contact Tim Hahn by e-mail at timlinda1968@comcast.net or by phone at 317-714-5582.)

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