Tag Archives: kids helping seniors

A Rocky Start: Chapter Nine Continued

Image1-17_edited-1Laura gave her career report on Monday morning. Just like Logan’s, it was perfect in every way. First she talked about some chefs she liked to watch on television, like Rachael Ray. Then she talked about famous cooking schools. “The best ones,” she said, “are in Paris, but you really don’t have to go that far. There is Le Cordon Bleu College in Scottsdale that has a very good reputation.”

At the end of her report, she passed out samples of her homemade cookies. She called them Laura’s Everything Cookies because they were filled with chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, white chocolate chips, macadamia nuts, and pecans. Everyone said they were the best cookies they had ever eaten. Amber was thinking that Betty Jenkins still made the best cookies she’d ever eaten, but she’d never tell Laura that.

After school, the girls rode their bikes to the senior center. Mrs. Snow saw them looking at the bulletin board. “Girls,” she said, “I need to see you in my office.”

The Happy Helpers looked at each other as if to ask, “Did we do something wrong?”

“Have a seat.” Mrs. Snow pointed to some chairs near her desk. “Bob said he had you set the tables for lunch on Saturday.”

“We did, “Laura said. “We did exactly what Bob told us to do.”

“He said that he made it quite clear that you should put out forks, knives, and spoons,” Mrs. Snow continued.

“That’s what we did.” Amber sounded concerned.

“Well, there were no spoons on the tables when the lunch was served. In fact, there were no spoons anywhere in the kitchen. Later, Walt found them in the recreation room.”

“I know there were spoons on the tables,” Melissa defended. “I put them there myself.”

“Maybe you forgot to put out the spoons,” Mrs. Snow suggested. “That’s possible, isn’t it?”

“No,” Laura insisted. “There were spoons on the tables. We didn’t forget.”

“Well,” Mrs. Snow went on, “I guess we’ll let it go at that. We all make mistakes sometimes. Try not to let it happen again.”

“We won’t,” Amber promised. “We like helping, and we always try to do our best.”

“Next Saturday, the women’s auxiliary is setting up for the big Easter luncheon. We could use your help with that. It’s an important event for the seniors. I hope I can count on you.”

“You can,” they all assured her.

“That was so strange,” Melissa said when they got outside.

“I wonder what happened to the spoons.” Laura shook her head.

“I don’t know,” Amber said thoughtfully. “But I think someone doesn’t want us here.”

At dinner that night, Amber told her family about what happened at the senior center.

“We really did set the table correctly,” Amber insisted. “The spoons just disappeared.”

“It sounds like someone was playing a practical joke on you,” John said. “I wouldn’t take it too seriously. Anyway, you have a second chance to prove yourselves.”

“Yeah, sis,” Kyle added. “What would your life be like without a little drama now and then? Pretty boring!”

“Not to change the subject,” Mary continued, “how are you coming with your career project?”

“Fine,” Amber answered. “It’s almost ready. Laura gave hers today. It was perfect, just like Logan’s. I think Ms. McGuire had the best students give their reports first to make the rest of us look bad.”

“She’s probably trying to let you slackers have more time to finish yours,” Kyle said with a laugh.

“Your teacher’s a smart woman.” John frowned at Kyle. “She had the best students do theirs first to give the rest of you an idea of how to do it. She let them set the example.”

“You might be right,” Amber said. “Logan did a little show-and-tell at the end of his report, and so did Laura. I suppose everyone will have to do that now. I’d better think of something I can show.”

“How about some of your drawings?” Mary asked. “That is, if you are doing your report on art as a career.”

“That’s my secret,” Amber reminded her with a sly smile.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon


A Rocky Start: Chapter Nine


As she promised, Amber’s mom picked her up at Laura’s at noon. On the way home, Amber was thinking that she would get her chores done quickly and then take a nap.

“Did you have fun?” Mary asked.

“It was great,” Amber said. “We made pizzas on the gas grill. We each made our own. Then we made s’mores.”

“Leave it to Laura and her mom to come up with a unique idea,” Mary said. “Maybe we’ll try that some time.”

Amber filled her mother in on the rest of the sleepover and the trip to the senior center. “I sure would like to know how my poster ended up under that table,” Amber said thoughtfully, “and why our names were erased from the volunteer list.”

“It’s probably just a mistake,” Mary told her daughter.

“Yeah, and I’m pretty sure I know who made it,” Amber said to herself.

As soon as Amber got home, she put away her sleeping bag and other gear. Then she started getting out the vacuum sweeper so she could do her chores.

“You don’t need to do that,” Mary said. “Kyle already did it for you.”

“Why?” Amber asked.

“Maybe he just wanted to do something nice for his little sister,” Mary answered.

Yeah, right, Amber thought. And I bet he reminds me the next time he wants me to do something for him.

Sunday morning, Amber awoke to loud screeching from outside her window. She pulled back her curtain to see a cat crawling out on the branch where the bird nest hung. The worried parents were dive-bombing the cat, trying to keep it away from the nest. Amber opened her window and yelled at the cat. At first it just stared at her. Then it crawled backward along the branch until it could climb down the tree. By that time, the parents were back with their babies at the nest.

“That was a close one,” Amber sighed to herself. She worried that the cat might return later and finish the job.

After church, Amber asked her mom if she could go visit Betty Jenkins. She found Betty busy in the kitchen, getting some food ready to take across the street to Doris Duncan.

“Why don’t you come with me?” Betty asked. “It’ll give you a chance to meet Doris. I know you’ll like her. Besides, I can use some help carrying this stuff.”

“Okay,” Amber said. “Do you take food to her all the time?”

“Not usually,” Betty explained. “Doris injured her back a few days ago, and she can’t get around too well right now.”

“How sad,” Amber said. “She’s lucky to have a good friend like you. Are you bringing her chocolate chip cookies?”

“Not for Doris,” Betty said seriously. “She has diabetes.”

“That’s awful!” Amber exclaimed.

“She’s had it for a long time,” Betty assured her. “She’s really healthy otherwise.”

“I meant it’s awful that she can’t have chocolate chip cookies.”

“Oh, I see,” Betty said. “But you can still have some when we get back.”

Doris Duncan’s house was neat as a pin and filled with beautiful green plants. Tiny little figurines sparkled on glass shelves in her very tidy living room. Doris was stretched out on the sofa in her robe but sat up when they arrived, which obviously caused her some pain. It was her daughter Lisa who let them in. She had come to take care of her mother for the weekend.

“They brought you some food, Mom,” Lisa said. “I’ll put it in the refrigerator for you.”

Betty introduced Amber, and the two of them sat down in chairs across from the sofa.

“How are you feeling today?” Betty asked.

“A little better,” Doris said. “The doctor told me it will take a few months before I’m back to my old self.”

“That’s too bad,” Betty responded. “How did you hurt your back?”

“The usual way,” Doris explained. “Trying to reach something on an upper shelf. I hadn’t cleaned up there for a while.”

“I’ve told you before,” Betty scolded, “dust that is out of sight should be out of mind.”

“I can’t help it,” Doris said. “I like a clean house.”

“Amber here might be able to help you while you’re laid up.” Betty nodded in Amber’s direction. “She and two of her friends just started a club to help seniors. What do you call yourselves?”

“We’re the Happy Helpers,” Amber said. “But we really haven’t helped anyone yet. You could be our first though.”

“I’m sure I’ll be able to keep up with things.” Doris grimaced as a movement caused her some pain. “I’ll just have to take it easy for a few days.”

Doris and Betty chatted for a while about friends and things that were happening around town. Then Amber and Betty said their good-byes and left. Back at Betty’s house, the two enjoyed some chocolate chip cookies and milk.

“Why doesn’t Doris want us to help her?” Amber asked. “Does she think we’ll break things?”

“She does have a lot of pretty things,” Betty said. “But I don’t think that’s the reason. You have to understand something about seniors. We need to be independent. Sometimes people treat us like we can’t do anything. Sometimes they make us feel like we’re just in the way. Doing things for ourselves is really important.”

“I do understand,” Amber said. “It’s the same way for kids. Sometimes adults treat us like we’re helpless. We may make mistakes, but it’s because we’re still learning. We like to be independent too and show everyone what we can do. That’s what we like most about being Happy Helpers.”

“Just give the seniors some time,” Betty went on. “After they get to know you like I do, I’m sure they’ll ask you for help.”

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Eight Continued

Image1-17_edited-1Sunlight was coming in through the seams of the tent when the girls woke up. As soon as talk was coming from the tent, Taylor appeared at the door flap. “Daddy’s making french toast,” she announced.

“My dad makes the best french toast,” Laura informed them. “He makes it with thick slices of bread, and he puts cinnamon in the mixture.”

After downing two servings each, the girls went to Laura’s room to get dressed.

“I don’t have my bike here,” Amber suddenly realized. “I’ll have to walk to the senior center.”

“Mandy will let you borrow hers,” Laura assured her. “I’ll go ask her now.”

At ten o’clock on the dot, the girls arrived at the senior center. They quickly checked the bulletin board to find their assignment. After going down the list several times, they were convinced that Mrs. Snow had forgotten to assign them a job. To make matters worse, Amber noticed that her flyer was missing from the bulletin board.

“Maybe it fell off,” Laura suggested.

“I don’t think so,” Amber said. “See, here’s the corner where I put the tack. I think someone pulled it down.”

After several minutes of looking, Amber located her flyer under a small table. She dusted it off and stuck it back on the bulletin board.

As they had been instructed by Mrs. Snow, the girls went directly to Walt’s office. They found him at his desk and explained the situation.

“Mrs. Snow isn’t here today,” he said. “Let’s go take a look at the list. Mrs. Snow said she was going to have you girls set the tables for lunch. Your names should be on the list.”

Walt checked the list but couldn’t find their names. “It looks like it was there, but someone erased it. I’m going to take you over to meet Bob Stone. He’s the lunchroom manager. He’ll show you what to do.”

Bob Stone was a big man with sandy-blond hair and a mustache. He was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, with a large white dish towel tied around his waist. Bob smiled broadly at the girls and talked fast as he filled them in on what they would be doing.

“Usually, the ladies’ auxiliary from the Community Church sets up our lunch on Saturdays,” Bob explained. “But they’re working on table decorations for next Saturday. We’re having a big Easter luncheon. You will need to put out a plate, silverware, a glass, and a napkin at each place around the tables. Usually, we just put out forks and knives, but since we’re having pudding today, you will need to put out spoons as well.”

Bob showed the girls where to find everything. Then he left the Happy Helpers to set the tables and went back to preparing the food. Laura took charge of explaining proper table setting to the other two girls. She told Amber to put out a plate and glass at each place. Then she put a napkin and fork on the left side of each plate. Melissa placed a knife and spoon on the right side. In about forty minutes, the girls had finished their work. On the way out, they waved to Gus, who called them over to where he was sitting with some other guys.

“Like you to meet my cronies,” he said. “Here’s Al, Bert, and Norman. We’re planning our Monday-night poker game.” Gus gave the girls a wink.

“It’s nice to meet you,” the girls said.

“Tell them a joke before they leave,” Bert told Gus.

“Okay, try this one,” Gus said. “Why did the boy eat his homework?”

“Was the boy named Spike?” Amber asked.

“Okay, why did the boy eat his homework?” Laura played along.

“His teacher said it was a piece of cake.” Everyone laughed.

“That’s a good one, Gus,” Melissa said. “You’re a pretty funny guy.”

“We’d better get going,” Laura reminded Amber. “Your mom will be at my house to pick you up.”

“See you later, alligator,” Gus called after them.

“After a while, crocodile,” the girls called back a little awkwardly.

Out in front of the senior center, the girls saw Chris and Logan sweeping the walkways.

“Where’s Spike?” Melissa asked. “Isn’t he one of the Handy Guys anymore?”

“He went inside to use the bathroom,” Logan answered. “He’s been gone for a while though.”

“Are you volunteering here now?” Chris asked.

“We are,” Laura announced. “We just finished setting the table for lunch. It’s kind of fun.”

“Some of these old guys are really great to be around,” Logan said.

“You mean like Gus?” Amber asked. “He just told us a funny joke.”

“Why did the boy eat his homework, right?” Chris laughed.

“That’s the one,” Laura said.

“Kind of corny, huh?” Logan asked.

“Yeah, but we’d never tell Gus that,” Chris added.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon



A Rocky Start: Chapter Seven


Domino didn’t know it yet, but Monday was going to be a life-changing day for him. That was the day that Mary would be taking him to the vet for his surgery. Mary had taken the day off from work. Domino didn’t seem to understand why nobody fed him that morning. He was whining and pushing his food dish around with his nose.

Amber brought the flyer to school so she could show it to her friends. She had worked on it for two hours on Sunday afternoon and was pretty pleased with the results.

At the top of the flyer, in her best fancy lettering, Amber had put the name of their group, Happy Helpers. Then she wrote their names: Melissa, Laura, Amber. Beside each name, she drew a little picture. Then she printed these words: “Helpful jobs we can do—dusting, sweeping, window cleaning, yard work, and shopping. Call when you need help around the house. We will be happy to help.” When she was finished, she showed it to her mother, who told her it was perfect. Melissa and Laura agreed.

“We’ll put it up on the senior-center bulletin board after school,” Laura said. “We might get some calls right away.”

“Then the Happy Helpers will be in business,” Amber said with glee.


After school, the girls rode their bikes to the senior center. Mrs. Snow accepted their applications to become junior volunteers. She explained that the volunteer assignments are posted every Monday afternoon.

“It’s too late to put you on this week’s assignment list,” Mrs. Snow said thoughtfully. “But if you can be here at ten o’clock next Saturday, I’ll have a job for you.”

“Just a minute,” Laura said, “we need to talk about something.”

With their heads together, in whispered tones, the girls talked about Laura’s sleepover on Friday. They all decided that if they didn’t stay up too late, they could be at the senior center by ten.

“Okay, Mrs. Snow,” Laura said at last. “We’ll be there.”

“When you get here on Saturday, check the assignment list. That will tell you what to do and who to report to. If you have any problems, Walt should be here all day.”

“Thanks,” Amber said. “There’s just one more thing. We have this flyer to put up on your bulletin board.”

“Isn’t that nice,” Mrs. Snow said. “Who’s the artist?”

“That would be me,” Amber said proudly. “I’m the one who made the flyer.”

“You can put it up on the bulletin board next to the one for Three Handy Guys,” Mrs. Snow offered.

“Thanks,” Melissa said. “We really like to help older people.”

“There’s a lot of need,” responded Mrs. Snow. “But sometimes it’s hard for people to ask for help. We all like to be independent.”

“We know just what you mean,” Laura said. “We like to be independent too.”

“You seem like three very capable young ladies.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Snow,” Laura said. “We try to be.”

Amber found a thumbtack and started to post her flyer on the bulletin board. “What if I accidentally put it over the top of Three Handy Guys?”

“I’d never tell.” Melissa laughed.

“That wouldn’t be very nice.” Laura pretended to be shocked.

“I’m not going to do it,” Amber assured her, “But I’m sure we can do any job they can do.”

“And better too,” Melissa added.

The sound of a door closing made the girls look in that direction. “Who was that?” Melissa asked.

“It looked like Spike,” Amber told them.

“Woops,” Melissa said with a little giggle.

When Amber came home from school, Domino was lying on his bed with a sad look on his face. He was wearing what looked like a lampshade around his neck.

“Be careful,” her mother warned. “He’s been through a lot today. He probably doesn’t want to be petted.”

“I’ll be careful,” Amber said as she knelt down to pat his head. Domino nuzzled her arm and seemed to be begging her for help.

“I need to take him outside,” Mary said. “He has to go out every two hours.”

“What is that thing around his neck?” Amber asked.

“It’s called an E-collar,” Mary explained. “It’s intended to keep him from licking the stitches and opening them up.”

“How long does he have to wear it?”

“About a week,” Mary told her. “He should be feeling better in a few days.”

By the next afternoon, Domino was getting around a little better. When Amber got home, she saw her mom returning after taking him for a walk.

“How’s he doing?” Amber asked.

“He seems to be feeling much better. We walked around the block.”

Once they were inside the house, Mary told her daughter to change her clothes right away.

“Kyle has a game this afternoon,” Mary said. “Your dad is meeting us there. Then we’re going out for pizza afterwards.”

By the time Amber and Mary arrived at the baseball field, the game was in the third inning. They quickly located John and took the seats next to him. The Bluesky Bulldogs were playing their rival, the Clear Creek Cavaliers. The score was three to nothing. The Bulldogs had the nothing. The Cavaliers were up to bat with two outs. Kyle was behind the plate, wearing his catcher’s gear. A cracking noise told Amber the ball had been hit hard. She watched as it popped straight up in the air and came down right into Kyle’s mitt for the third out.

Play continued for the next two innings with no runs by either team. Then in the bottom of the sixth, the Cavalier’s pitcher walked the first batter. The next batter hit a line drive down third base. Now there were runners on first and second. A pop fly was the first out. Next came a grounder to center field, and the runners advanced. The bases were loaded when Kyle came to bat. As his bat connected with the ball, the loud crack brought the spectators to their feet. The sound of cheering was deafening as his ball sailed over the left-field fence for a four-run home run.

The rest of the game was uneventful, but Kyle’s grand slam assured his team of a four-to-three victory. Amber yelled and jumped up and down with the other Bulldog fans. But in the back of her mind, she couldn’t help thinking about how living with Kyle wasn’t going to be easy for the next few days.

Later, at the pizza parlor, Kyle had to relive every dramatic moment of the game. If that wasn’t bad enough, every few minutes, someone was giving him a high five or patting him on the back. Then he would start replaying the game all over again.

To make matters worse, Amber spotted Ms. McGuire in a booth with some friends. After their server finished taking their order, Ms. McGuire walked over to the Snyders’ table.

“Hi,” she said to everyone. “You seem to be the hero of the day,” she said to Kyle, who was beaming with pride. “How’s your report coming?” she asked Amber.

“Fine,” was all Amber said.

“She won’t tell us what her topic is,” John said.

“Then I won’t spoil her surprise.” Ms. McGuire smiled at Amber as if they shared a big secret.

“I have something I need to discuss with you, Mrs. Snyder,” said Ms. McGuire. “Would it be okay if I stopped by your office on Friday afternoon?”

“That would be fine,” Mary said. “I’ll be happy to talk to you.”

After she left, Mary shot her daughter a “what did you do?” look, to which Amber only shrugged.

“And the drama continues,” Kyle said, rolling his eyes.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Six Continued


Saturday morning, Amber awoke to the sounds of tiny chirping outside her window. A quick check of the little family told her that all five babies were awake and ready for breakfast. After she had eaten her own breakfast and finished her Saturday chores, she asked her mom if she could go over to Melissa’s house.

Melissa lived down one block and over two blocks, on Davis Drive. She lived with her mom and her grandmother. Melissa’s dad, who was in the army, was stationed in Afghanistan. Amber rang the doorbell and waited. She could hear women talking, and after a minute, the door opened. It was Melissa’s mom on her way out the door to go to work.

“Hi, Amber,” she said. “Melissa will be right here. What are you girls planning to do today?”

“We’re not sure,” Amber told her. “We might go to the park or just ride our bikes around.”

“Why don’t you bring your friends back here for lunch?” Melissa’s grandmother, Mrs. Oates, called out to her as Melissa started out the door.

“Want to have lunch with us?” This time it was Trisha, Melissa’s little sister, who was peeking out from behind a door.

“Thank you, Mrs. Oates, and thank you, Trisha,” Amber said. “I’ll have to call my mom first, but I’m sure it will be okay.”

As Amber and Melissa were getting on their bikes, they saw Logan, Chris, and Spike riding down the street.

“I wonder if they’re going to the senior center,” Melissa said.

“Probably,” Amber answered. “Maybe we should go see if anything’s going on there today.”

The two girls stopped by Laura’s house, and then the three of them headed for the senior center. The first person they ran into was Gus.

“Come on,” he said. “I’ll show you around the place.”

The senior center was one large building with a flat roof. It had cream-colored siding and green trim. Gus ushered the girls through the front door. There they noticed the bulletin board with the flyer for Three Handy Guys.

“Do many seniors get help from them?” Melissa asked, pointing to the flyer.

“You’d be surprised,” Gus answered. “Those boys are really popular around here. A few weeks ago, they helped me paint my front porch.”

In the main room, some of the seniors were playing checkers or chess. There was a small room off to the side with exercise equipment. A yoga class was going on in one part of the room.

“That’s how I keep my youthful figure.” Gus laughed as he struck a pose. The girls couldn’t help grinning at his knobby knees sticking out of his Bermuda shorts.

Amber noticed a hairstyling salon. It was closed on Saturdays, but she asked Gus about it.

“I don’t go there much myself,” he said, rubbing his bald head. The girls all laughed  again.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  “The main thing seniors come here for is the lunch,” Gus told them. “The senior center serves a free lunch to anyone over the age of sixty-five, every Monday through Saturday.”

“Wow,” Laura said. “Who pays for that?”

“The town pays for some of it,” Gus said. “We get lots of donations, and most of the work is done by volunteers.”

“Could we be volunteers?” Amber asked. “You know, junior volunteers like the boys are?”

“New volunteers are always welcome,” Gus said. “Come on in the office. I’ll introduce you to Walt Collins. He’s the manager here.”

Walt was a man in his sixties with graying hair and glasses. He was dressed in gray slacks, and the sleeves were rolled up on his white shirt. Walt had been a grocery store manager, but now he volunteered his time keeping the senior center up and running.

“We’re always looking for volunteers,” he told the girls. “Of course, there’s some paperwork you’ll have to do. Mostly, we have to make sure we have your parents’ permission. We don’t want to break any laws.”

“Of course not,” Amber said. “How do we get started?”

“Here are the forms you’ll need.” Walt handed them some papers. “Mrs. Snow is in charge of the volunteers. She isn’t here on Saturdays. You can drop the forms off with any of the volunteers, and they’ll see that she gets them.”

The girls thanked Gus for the tour. As they walked outside, they noticed the Three Handy Guys sweeping the walkways around the senior center. Chris put down his broom and came over to greet them.

“There’s not much going on here today,” he said.

“We know,” Amber told him. “Gus took us on a tour, and Walt gave us the forms we need to become volunteers.”

“That’s great,” Chris said. “Then we’ll probably be seeing you around here a lot.”

“See you later, alligator,” Gus called to them as he got in his car.

“After a while, crocodile,” Logan, Chris, and Spike answered back.

“Why does he say that?” Melissa asked.

“It’s something people said when he was a kid,” Chris explained. “Gus is a real friendly guy. It’s just his way of letting you know he likes you.”


The girls climbed on their bikes and headed for Melissa’s house. “What’s for lunch?” Laura asked.

“What do you think,” Amber answered for her. “Leftover pizza.”

“That’s not all we eat,” Melissa said. “But it would be fine with me if it was.”

“Lucky for you that your mom manages a pizza restaurant,” Laura added.

“Yeah,” Melissa said. “Real lucky.”


Lunch turned out to be hot dogs, chips, applesauce, and root beer floats. Trisha had chosen the menu. She was setting the table outside when the girls returned. When she saw them, Trisha came running over and wrapped her arms around Amber’s waist.

“Amber!” she exclaimed. “Come and see my pet rabbit.” Trisha dragged her across the lawn to a wire pen. Inside was a small black lop-eared rabbit.

“What’s his name?” Amber asked.

“His name is Jellybean,” Trisha told her. “Do you want to hold him?”

“Does he kick?” Amber asked.

“Not very hard, he’s too small to kick hard.”

Laura and Melissa joined them as they watched Jellybean hop around in the yard. Trisha was giggling and chasing after him.

“How’s school?” Laura asked Trisha while they were eating their lunches.

“I’m the best reader in the first grade,” Trish announced proudly. “My teacher is Mrs. Bell. She always asks me to read out loud in class. I get good grades on my report card.”

“She’s a real whiz kid,” Melissa said somewhat sarcastically.

“She does her homework right away when she gets home from school,” said Mrs. Oates, who shot an accusing look at Melissa.

“I do my homework,” Melissa defended herself. “I might not get it done until ten o’clock, but I do it.”

Amber was thinking that maybe having a perfect little sister wasn’t any better than having a perfect big brother. When the girls finished lunch, Trisha followed them to Melissa’s room. She stomped her foot when Melissa closed the door in her face.

“Trisha,” Mrs. Oates called from the kitchen. “Come and help me clean up the lunch dishes.”

“Okay, Grandma,” she said. Then the girls heard Trisha stomp down the hall.

For a while, the three friends listened to music and practiced their dance moves. Then they played some video games.

“What kinds of things do you think we’ll be doing as volunteers at the senior center?” Laura asked.

“I’m not sure,” Amber answered thoughtfully. “Maybe we’ll help serve lunch or do some cleaning. There are probably lots of things that need to be done.”

“I wonder how many volunteers they have,” Melissa said. “Maybe they already have other people doing most of the jobs.”

“We could help some of the seniors who live alone like Betty Jenkins,” Laura suggested.

“I could make a flyer like the boys have, and we could put it up on the bulletin board,” Amber said excitedly. “But what should we call ourselves?”

“Spike said we should call ourselves Three Useless Girls,” Melissa reminded them.

“Then maybe we should call ourselves Three Useful Girls,” Laura offered.

“That would just make it easier for Spike to make fun of us.” Amber shook her head. “We need a name that is way different from theirs.”

“What about Three Helpful Girls?” Laura said.

“That’s not much different.” Melissa shook her head. “Amber’s right, we need something that doesn’t sound like we’re copying the guys.”

“We could be Girls Happy to Help,” Amber suggested.

“How about Happy Helpers?” Laura shouted with enthusiasm.

“That’s perfect,” Amber and Melissa agreed.

“We’ll be the Happy Helpers,” Amber said excitedly. “I’ll make the flyer this weekend, and we can put it up on the bulletin board on Monday.”

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon


A Rocky Start: Chapter Five


Betty Jenkins’s weather prediction turned out to be correct. The rain started at about five o’clock Saturday evening and continued most of the night. Amber awoke to a soggy Sunday morning. She jumped out of bed and ran to the window to check on the bird family. There she saw the parents huddled together on the nest. The branch the nest was hanging from provided some protection, but the birds had to be getting wet.

“Guess we’ll be taking the car to church this morning,” John said at breakfast.

Melissa and Chris also attended the Community Christian Church. Laura went to the Catholic church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, on the other side of Bluesky. When Amber arrived for Sunday school, Melissa and Chris were already there. Amber took a seat next to Melissa.

“That was kind of fun yesterday, watching the shuffleboard tournament,” Melissa said.

“I thought you said it was boring,” Amber reminded her.

“That was when the boys were there,” Melissa said. “I pretend like everything is boring when boys are around.”

“Why?” Amber asked.

“I just do,” Melissa said. “It’s part of my mystique.”

“What’s that?”

“That’s something the boys have to figure out.”

“You’ve lost me,” Amber sighed. “I can’t figure it out either.”

“We were surprised to see you girls at the shuffleboard tournament yesterday,” Chris said as he walked over to where they were sitting.

“We were surprised to see you there too,” Amber responded. “Do you like volunteering?”

“Actually, it’s a lot of fun.” Chris smiled. “Most of the seniors are pretty cool, especially Gus. He’s a funny guy.”

“How about the other seniors? Are they cool about having you help them?” Melissa asked.

“Most of them,” Chris told her. “Some of the seniors can be grouchy, and they think we’re noisy. But most of them are friendly and happy to see us.”

“Is that why you do it?” Amber asked.

“When we first moved to Bluesky, I was riding my bike past some old guy’s house. I was on the street, not on his property. But he came out and yelled at me. He told me to get away or he’d call the police.”

“That’s awful,” Melissa said. “I’m surprised you want to help them at all.”

“When we started our Boy Scout project, I told my scoutmaster about it. He said that some people think all kids are troublemakers. Of course, that isn’t true. It’s easy to think that all old folks are grouchy. But that isn’t true either.”

After church, while the family was eating lunch, Amber talked about the Sunday school lesson. “There were two brothers. One did everything he was supposed to do. The other brother made a big mistake. He asked his father for his inheritance. Then he went off on his own and wasted it on the wrong kinds of things. When he ran out of money, he was very poor and starving. He decided to go back to his father and beg his father to give him a lowly job. Instead, his father forgave him and threw a big party because his son was home.”

“What do you think the story means?” John asked.

“I think that God is like the father. He forgives us no matter how big a mistake we make, and he is always happy when we come back to him,” Amber answered.

“That’s exactly right,” John said with enthusiasm.

“What about paying his dues for his don’ts?” Amber looked at her mother.

“Did he get his inheritance back?” Mary asked.

“No,” Amber said thoughtfully. “So he paid for his don’ts by losing his inheritance?”

“That’s right,” Mary said. “He had his father’s forgiveness, but there are always consequences when we don’t choose to do what is right.”

“I hope I only make little mistakes,” Amber said.

“Me too,” Mary added. “But remember, you have a family that loves you no matter what mistakes you make. We’ll always be here for you.”

It was still raining a little after lunch. The Snyder family settled down in front of the television to watch a baseball game. Everyone, that is, except Amber. She decided to go up to her room and work on some of her sketches. The colored-pencil set she received for her birthday would come in handy coloring the bird sketches she had made earlier.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

An interview with Amber Snyder

AmberVeronica Lyons here from Marshallville Daily News. This week we’re talking with kids who are making a difference in their communities. Today I’m speaking  with ten-year-old Amber Snyder. Amber is a member of the Handy Helpers, a group of children who assist the elderly in the town of Bluesky. Thank you for joining us today. How are you?

Amber:  I’m a little nervous but I’m happy to be here.

Veronica: Tell us a little about the Handy Helpers and what you do.

Amber: The Handy Helpers are kids like me who help at the senior center. We do some yard work and set the table for lunch. Sometimes we even help clean the kitchen. We call that KP duty.

Veronica: Are you organized like a club or do you just show up to help when you want to?

Amber: We are like a club. We have meetings every Monday. Logan is like the president. He wasn’t actually elected, but he’s really smart and organized. He’s a good leader.

Veronica: Do you just help at the senior center or do you help seniors in other ways?

Amber: We like to help seniors in any way we can. Sometimes they need help watering their plants or sweeping the porch. We’re always ready to help.

Veronica: How can seniors contact you if they need assistance?

Amber: We have posters around town to let people know we’re available. The best way to contact us is to call Walt at the senior center. He gives us our messages at the Monday meetings.

Veronica: How many members do you have?

Amber: There are seven of us, four girls and three boys.

Veronica:  Handy Helpers is a clever name. How did you come up with it?

Amber: At first, it was only the three boys helping at the senior center. They were Three Handy Guys. Then when my friends, Melissa and Laura wanted to start our own group, we called ourselves the Happy Helpers. After a while, we decided that we could help more if we worked together. That’s how we became the Handy Helpers.

Veronica: Well, I’m sure the people in Bluesky really appreciate all that you do. What do you like best about being a Handy Helper?

Amber:  I like helping, of course. But what I really like most is getting to know the seniors. They are so fun to be with. Sometimes they dress up in goofy costumes. They like to tell jokes and do fun things. They’re also good listeners when you have a problem.

Veronica: It sounds like you have made some very good friendships with the seniors in your town.

Amber: Yes, I have. They are my friends–Like Gus who always says, “See you later alligator,” and Betty who makes the best chocolate chip cookies you’ve ever eaten.

Veronica: Well, I make pretty good chocolate chip cookies. Are you sure Betty’s are the best?

Amber: Yes, they are. They have a secret ingredient.

Veronica: What’s the secret ingredient?

Amber: I can’t tell. I promised.

Veronica: You can whisper it to me. I won’t tell anyone.

Amber: I’m sorry. I can’t do that.

Veronica: Well, you’re a very loyal friend. I’ve enjoyed talking with you Amber. Good luck with your Handy Helpers group.

Amber: Thank you, Veronica.  I’m happy I could be here and talk about the Handy Helpers.


Beginning Friday, April 10, and continuing every Friday, the first Handy Helpers book, A Rocky Start, will be presented in serial form. I hope you will make it your Friday read.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon




That Guy Named Gus

rheddens_order_delivered_jpgGus Farley is the fun-loving founder of the Bluesky Senior Center. When he and his wife, Barbara, moved to Bluesky from Ohio, only a few families were living there. Gus had retired from his job as a machinist and found himself with lots of time on his hands. At first, he kept busy by whittling, a hobby he learned from his father. But eventually, he looked around for something else to do. Building the senior center in Bluesky was not his idea, but he made it his personal project. Gus and Babs, as everyone called her, worked tirelessly to raise money for the land and building. Their only son had been killed in Vietnam, so the citizens of Bluesky became their family. When Babs was diagnosed with cancer, Gus turned his attention to caring for her. After Babs passed away, the senior center became his refuge. Most days, Gus can be found sitting in the rec room with his cronies, Al, Bert and Norman, telling stories or playing checkers.

When Amber, Laura, and Melissa come to the senior center for the first time to watch Betty’s shuffleboard match, it is Gus who greets them and gives them a quick tutorial on shuffleboard. Later, when they return to sign up as junior volunteers, it is Gus who shows them around the place. After that, the girls come to expect Gus to be there to greet them,  ready with a joke or riddle.

“Tell them a joke before they leave,” Bert told Gus.

“Okay, I’ll try,” Gus said. “Why did the boy eat his homework?”

“Was the boy named Spike?” Amber asked.

“Okay, why did the boy eat his homework?” Laura played along.

“His teacher said it was a piece of cake.”

Although Gus likes to dress up in crazy outfits and join in whatever fun stuff is going on, he does have his serious side. For example, when Amber is feeling guilty about some stunts she pulled to get even with Spike, Gus is there to help her see how much she is valued and loved.

“You know”–Gus became more serious–“I never had a daughter or a granddaughter, but if I did, I’d want her to be just like you.”

“Really?” Amber sounded doubtful. “Laura’s a lot smarter than I am, and Melissa is way prettier. Besides, I mess up a lot.”

“My wife, Barbara, would have loved you,” Gus said. “In some ways you remind me of her.”

“Do I look like her? “When she was younger, I mean?”

“No, you don’t look too much like her, except for your eyes. She had the same warm, deep brown eyes you have. Sometimes there was a little mischief in them like I’ve seen in yours.”

In book three, after Spike’s mishap with the mayor, Spike expects a big lecture from Gus just like the one he received from his parents. Instead, Gus offers him a bit of advice in the form of a Bible scripture, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Gus goes on to give Spike a little project to work on–something that makes all the difference in Spike’s attitude toward Todd.

Gus is the perfect example of Christian charity for the Handy Helpers. He is there to lend a hand when his neighbors are in need–always with a smile. He is patient with Warren Pritchard, who has some memory problems. He is kind to the Clawson sisters who are a little eccentric.  When the Cole children need a home, it is Gus who steps up. That guy named Gus–Bluesky just wouldn’t be the same without him.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon