Cambridge woman continues to extend a hand

by Claudia Loucks correspondent
Claudia Loucks
Sierra Brown, Cambridge, founder of A Hand to Hold ministry, holds the Christmas greeting she will take with her to the Children’s Hospital in Peoria along with a check in the amount of money she has collected to benefit the children hospitalized over the holiday season.

Even though she won’t be able to personally deliver toys to the children at the OSF Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria, Sierra Brown of Cambridge will continue to extend a hand to them.

When she was 16, Brown, now a junior at Illinois State University, Normal, founded A Hand to Hold ministry to benefit children hospitalized over the holidays.

In previous years she spearheaded toy drives, raised funds and made blankets and more and took those gifts to the Children’s Hospital in Peoria.

In the midst of the current pandemic, the project is still happening, but rather than collecting toys and other items, Brown is seeking cash donations.

“What I plan to do is total the donations I receive and then take one check with the total money collected and I will present the check to the activity director at the hospital,” she said. “All of the funds received will be used to buy toys, gifts, learning materials, and to pay for special events for the kids.”

In previous years, Brown was able to conduct coin drives at area schools where children donated to A Hand to Hold, but those couldn’t take place this year nor could other fund raising events.

“Even though we are sad that we can’t visit the kids in the hospital, we are hoping that ‘A Hand to Hold’ will still bless them and their families this Christmas season,” Brown said.

Cash or checks may be left in the drop box at the Cambridge Village Office, 124 West Exchange St., or next door at Cambridge United Methodist Church, 120 West Exchange St.

Those people donating are asked to write “A Hand to Hold” on envelopes and anyone leaving checks at the church should make checks payable to Cambridge United Methodist Church with “A Hand to Hold” written on the memo line.

Donations can be left through Saturday, Dec. 19.

Brown’s mission began five years ago in her home church, Cambridge United Methodist when she invited a few close friends to brainstorm with her about what to call the organization and she said, “We talked about how the title should be something that makes everyone feel welcome. I did not want it to be limited to a single category because my vision for this mission was to use it as a platform to get people of all ages involved in selfless acts of kindness, and volunteering for a plethora of causes.”

Thus, A Hand to Hold was born and Brown believes the name reflects the idea that her group will be able to lend a hand to those in need.

Since it began, A Hand to Hold volunteers have helped teach dance lessons, collect coats, blankets, winter clothing, collect funds for a homeless shelter, performed music at a long-term care hospice center, advertised for Rock to Romania, raised awareness for suicide prevention, recognized the church pastor during Pastor Appreciation Month, and hosted a city-wide yard cleanup day.

Every year, beginning in 2016, Brown also has raised funds, collected toys, stuffed animals, made blankets and more and taken the gifts to the Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria.

“I try to get different groups of people involved each year for our hospital visit,” she said. “In 2017, the Ridgewood Spartan Cheerleading team (Cambridge and Alwood) helped me cut, tie, and make personal blankets for the children at the hospital and the cheerleaders accompanied me to deliver the blankets.”

Brown chooses a focus for the annual visit to the hospital and said, “We have done books, blankets and toys. After all of the gifts are made or purchased, I take them to my church where our pastor and our entire congregation gather at the altar and pray for the children who will be receiving the gifts. We pray for healing, joy and purpose.”

“The feeling I get in caring for others is why I continue to serve,” she said. “I know I am capable of using my talents to benefit others. All it takes is a little dedication and passion to make it happen.”

When she brings people to become involved in a cause greater than themselves, Brown said she feels she is doing what really matters in life.

“My hope is that the opportunities A Hand to Hold provides gives people the ability to step back and realize how fortunate we are, and how precious and valuable life truly is,” she said. “We are given one life and can live it however we like. I want A Hand to Hold to give people a reason to smile and to lend a hand as a community. My hope is that A Hand to Hold will inspire individuals to find their own purpose in life, and do what makes them happy.”

For more information about or to donate to A Hand to Hold, contact Brown at ahandtohold16@gmail.com. More information also is available at A Hand to Hold Face book page and on Instagram.