Written by Minta Keller, daughter of Mamma’s Hands Founder’s Denny & Leslie Hancock.
Music has been a huge part of my life. That love was instilled and fostered by my parents. We had good and uplifting music playing almost all the time. Pretty much every day I got to wake up and fall asleep to my own private concert of gorgeous original piano music by my dad. He’s been writing since he was young and has continued to write from his heart to this day.
One of his best songs was inspired by an experience he had in 1990 with two homeless men in a cafe while on his lunch break. He had been laying carpet all morning and wanted time to himself. At the County Line Cafe, two homeless men ended up sitting right next to him and shortly after they sat down the younger man fell to the floor in a seizure. My dad witnessed the older man comfort him and found out they were a father and son. The father spoke to my dad about how he loved his son and his commitment to him. Those words took root in my dad’s heart and served as the seed to the beginning of a now 30-year mission with my mom to serve God’s children in need.
This happened when I was 5 years old and as soon as I could sing with my dad I was accompanying him to youth gatherings where he’d share his story through words and music. I loved going to these and watching him talk and sometimes singing with him! I was so proud of the person he was striving to be and the work he was striving to accomplish.
When the House of Hope opened up in 1994 I was 9 years old. It was such an exciting time! I remember my parents finding the perfect place and crying when they told us about the miracles that led to them being able to purchase the property. My mom and dad both spoke reverently about the opportunity to create a home where women with their children could come for refuge and recovery.
My brothers and sister and I were all a part of cleaning the inside and outside of the house, painting and repairing the deck, yard work and any other miscellaneous tasks to get the house ready. This never felt like a chore, everything we did there was so exciting to me!
The first women and their children started to arrive. I was able to grow close to and love many of them. I still remember Sheila, who came with a daughter not too much younger than me named Jasmine. Sheila also had a preemie baby that we all loved and were grateful that survived an early birth and then could thrive at the House of Hope. Sheila always hugged me and treated me with love, I felt special to have a relationship with her. Sometimes I got to help Jasmine with her homework but mostly we liked playing on the swingset or in the woods together with my little brother, Billy.
Another poignant memory of mine is my dad coming home from visiting the House of Hope and sharing an experience he had had. It was normal for him to do this, tell stories around the dinner table about his day that made us think, smile, or laugh- usually laugh actually! But this story really impacted me and I think it was because of the power of the example my dad was setting for me. This time he talked about a walk he took in the forest and how he decided to kneel and pray. He started to cry as he described the feeling he had when he prayed. I don’t remember if he shared what he was praying for but I remember feeling very touched by how much he cared about the families at the House of Hope. I also remember knowing that my dad depended on his Father in Heaven to make possible the impossible in his life and the lives of those he was trying to help.
My mom always listened patiently and lovingly as my dad would share these types of tender experiences. She has been somewhat of a quiet warrior, tackling issues and tasks in the background that many people have no idea need tackling when keeping a nonprofit going. She is my hero for the support she gives my dad in pursuing his dreams.
Just like the song my dad wrote when he got home from that Cafe in 1990 after that encounter with the homeless people, my parents have “planted deep inside of me, a seedling to a mighty tree” through their work with Mamma’s Hands and the House of Hope. They’ve taught me to “judge not, that ye be not judged” and that “we’re all children, of our Father in Heaven, He loves them, so should I.”