A Small Girl with a Big Heart

The congregants at St. George’s Episcopal, a small parish in La Cañada, California, are blessed to have a youngster named Hannah in their midst. Termed the church’s “resident theologian” by the Rev. Anthony Keller, deacon, Hannah is known for her probing questions and her compassion for people in need. After learning about the devastating Japan earthquake and tsunami in March, the six-year-old was compelled to launch a bake sale. With the help of her family and church, she raised several hundred dollars to support those affected by the disaster.

In the days following the tragedy, Hannah constantly heard the news reports in the car, said her mother, Katie. “One day on the way to school, all of a sudden I heard from the back seat, ‘Hey Mommy, what’s the Red Cross?’” They talked about the Red Cross and what had happened in Japan. Katie asked Hannah what she thought about the situation and Hannah responded, “I really don’t know, Mommy. I need to pray about it and I will let you know.”

About a week and a half later, Katie recalled, Hannah came running in after school. “Mommy, I was talking to God about what to do, and God said I should have a bake sale!” she said. “I’m going to bake brownies and sell them for $1 each at church, and send the money to Japan. Those poor people are going to need homes, and I need your money to help them.” Katie asked why her money was needed. “Well, I have to buy the supplies,” Hannah pointed out.

With Katie’s help, Hannah spent all day Friday making several dozen brownies, along with a sign that read, “Brownies for Sale. All money goes to help Japan.” At church that Sunday, Katie shared about Hannah’s bake sale during service. The Rev. Amy Pringle, St. George’s rector, stood up, announced she would buy the first brownie for $100, and challenged the congregation to help Hannah out. “If we can’t support a six-year-old in something like this,” she said, “I don’t know what we’re doing in church today.”

At the bake sale table, people were handing Hannah fives, tens and twenties for their brownies. She tried to give them change and was confused when they wouldn’t accept it. When all 53 brownies were gone, Hannah was excited to find she had raised $428. Then a thought struck her. “I don’t know how I’m going to get the money to Japan,” she told her mom. Katie reminded her about the Red Cross and she said, “But I don’t know those people.” Katie then suggested giving the money to Amy, their rector, who would send it to Episcopal Relief & Development. “Yeah, we need to do that!” Hannah said.

In a note to the agency, enclosed with the checks, Amy described how church members went all out to buy “these exceptional brownies from an exceptional child,” and concluded with, “She knows you’ll put this to good use.” It was signed, “The (Teary) Rev. Amy Pringle.”

“I truly don’t know where Hannah gets it from. We try to have a giving-back spirit in our home, but she’s so empathetic, so selfless, it’s amazing,” said Katie. “She is enthralled with church and just has this complete faith. Some of her friends have said things like, ‘You’re crazy – that’s a lot of work, and you’re not even keeping the money?’ But I tell her, ‘I’m glad that you dare to care.’ Our church also helps – it really accepts her. It’s a small parish with few children, but very lively and loving.”

“Hannah’s compassion and vision are inspiring, and we’re very grateful that she has entrusted us with these funds. We have made sure that this gift from her heart will support people in Japan impacted by this disaster,” said Brian Sellers-Petersen, Director of Church Engagement at Episcopal Relief & Development. “She has truly set an example in what it means to live out our Baptismal Covenant vows to ‘seek and serve Christ in all persons’ and ‘love our neighbors as ourselves.’”


Photos: Top and upper left, courtesy of Hannah’s parents, Richard and Katie. Bottom left, cc by Timothy Vollmer. Center: Hannah was so grateful to St. George’s for letting her sell the brownies that she held a second bake sale – this time to support the church. Courtesy of Richard and Katie. Right: Courtesy of St. George’s.