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Student-run Nonprofit ‘Hearts to Heroes’ Supports Essential Workers


By Yejin Heo

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Published in HS Insider/Los Angeles Times

“Wait, we can keep these?” a local postal worker offhandedly asked, clutching a box full of care packages, face shields, and masks. This lighthearted comment switched in demeanor to once again remind Hearts to Heroes of how often the efforts of essential workers go unacknowledged.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to infiltrate countries around the world, high school students in Southern California are banding together to provide essential workers with the essentials.

Northwood High School juniors Haley Chan, Delaney Wong, and Amanda Wu co-founded the nonprofit Hearts to Heroes after witnessing the hardship in the world while feeling frustrated and helpless at home. They searched for solutions within their capacity to assist essential workers in their community.

“What started as a spontaneous 2 a.m. idea grew into the elaborate network of volunteers that we are today,” Wong said.

Over the course of three months, Hearts to Heroes has built an operation for volunteers to assemble face shields, prepare care packages, and distribute donations to essential workers. They recruit volunteers from across the city of Irvine as a tax-exempt nonprofit to provide a platform for everyone of all ages to give back to their communities from the safety of their home. They use a system that only asks volunteers for their time.

Because COVID-19 spreads from person-to-person contact, it’s imperative that essential workers are provided with the necessary supplies to serve the community. An increasingly muddled and incorrect public conception that the pandemic is coming to a halt contributes to the United States bracing for more cases, suffering great economic tolls, and experiencing obstacles related to mental health.

Hearts to Heroes has distributed over 680 face shields, 850 care packages, and 10,000 surgical masks to essential workers across the nation, donating to Hoag Hospital Irvine, CHOC Orange, Keck Hospital at USC, PIH Health Whittier Hospital, UCI Medical Center, Foothill Regional Medical Center, and numerous Kaiser Permanente branches throughout the United States. They have also expanded their reach to other essential employees such as grocery store workers, postal workers, and firefighters.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has opened the eyes of teenagers and average citizens like ourselves to appreciate the work that community heroes do to keep our society up and running,” Chan said.

Chan emphasized that it’s important to reflect on what those who aren’t on the front line can do to help. Of course, the most important thing everyone can do is to stay at home, Chan said.

However, while the government struggles to administer tests and equitably provide for workers, organizations like Hearts to Heroes directly bring resources to vulnerable workers.

“Hearts to Heroes is dedicated to celebrating the everyday heroes across the nation,” Chan said. “Ultimately, we aim to serve the community that serves us.”