A boldly colored block of cheese sits next to a cheese grater, both meticulously colored in Crayola markers. Careful, hand-drawn calligraphy in felt-tipped pen across the homemade card says, “Not to be cheesy, but you’re grate.”
Another newly finished card sports colorful, marshmallow Peeps, also colored in magic marker. The calligraphy on this card reads, “Happy Easter to some of my favorite Peeps.”
Maya Miller of Hollywood uses her artistic talent and love of puns to write unique, homemade cards that she gives to seniors through Heart2Heart. Her creative dedication is why we named her our Volunteer of the Month for April.
Using her talent
What started as a need for high school service hours has turned into a deeper experience. Maya’s 22-year-old sister already volunteered with Heart2Heart and told Maya about the program. Since last summer, Maya has created and delivered her special cards to different care centers through Heart2Heart.
“I honestly didn’t expect people to appreciate what I make so much,” Maya said. “I work hard on them, but it’s really surprising for people to care so much about them.”
Maya especially loves it when she can attend Heart2Heart events and personally deliver her cards. Recently, she enjoyed a St. Patrick’s Day event. She did arts and crafts with the seniors, participated in a trivia game and told them some jokes.
“It was really cool,” Maya said. “Especially since I’m 16, I never really thought about what it is to get old and what they’re going through. But getting to volunteer and meet new people and talk with them has been a valuable experience.”
She loves seeing people’s reactions when she delivers the cards. Sometimes, they think they have to buy the cards from her and are delighted when she insists they’re a gift.
Around Valentine’s Day, she handed one man a card and suggested he give it to his wife for the holiday. He liked it so much that he said he wanted it for himself! With a laugh, Maya handed him a second card so he wouldn’t have to share.
“I find pleasure in drawing, and it’s peaceful for me,” Maya said. “And if it makes someone happy and betters their day, that makes it all worthwhile.”
Thinking of the future
When Maya isn’t drawing, she loves to cook, bake, watch movies, build things, crafts, and help her parents with projects. She loves learning, especially math and science – particularly biology. She wants to be a surgeon and loves the advice she receives from seniors when she delivers her cards.
“We talk about what I want to do in the future, and they tell me to never stop pursuing my dreams, stay in school, and pursue a good education,” Maya said. “But they also told me to do what’s best with my skill set. When I’m older, I don’t want to look back and regret not doing things.”
Maya encourages other young people like her to volunteer. She used to be so busy with school that she didn’t think about helping others. Now she thinks everyone could benefit from volunteering.
“They should find something that aligns with what they’re good at and enjoy doing because then it won’t feel like a chore,” Maya said.
Maya said she was surprised to be named Volunteer of the Month.
“It makes me want to do even more and help this organization to be even better and help the lives of other people,” she said. “It shows that what I do makes a difference, which isn’t something I truly expected when I began volunteering.”