Children’s book raises money for Hesed House

The author and artist of a COVID coloring book donated leftover funds to Hesed House. Pictured from the left are artist Gay Sommers Joines, Hesed House Executive Director Stephanie Konvicka, author Elizabeth Moreno, and contributor George Annette Simmons.

After unimaginable success and over 9,000 copies later, the coloring book for “The COVID Pandemic and How the Animals Saved the Day” has come to an end and the remaining proceeds from the bank account that funded the project have been given to Hesed House in Wharton to carry on the generosity of the community.  

The ceremony took place at 11 a.m. in Wharton at Hesed House on Friday, Dec. 17. 

The project began in March of 2020 when Shirlene Lowdermilk challenged Liz Moreno to write a book about the animal hunts that were going on around town concerning the pandemic. When Moreno reluctantly caught the vision to write the story, she enlisted the help local artist Gay Joines to illustrate the verses that she wrote. It wasn’t long before the two of them opened a bank account exclusively for the coloring book. They decided early on that the books would be given away and neither one of them would profit from them. 

When they placed the first order, they had enough donations for 3,000 copies, which was not a small feat, considering neither of them had worked on a project like that before. The idea caught on like wildfire and the books were available in many locations throughout East Wharton County. In fact, Cindy Valchar found copies at Vincek’s Smokehouse in East Bernard and took the vision back to her hometown of Needville.  

After she shared the story with her fellow citizens, people in Needville worked together to provide copies for youngsters in their community. They ordered 1,000 copies to distribute to the schools and daycares, and even gave a copy to each of their school’s graduating seniors.  

The project grew exponentially from there. By the time November 2020, rolled around, Moreno had placed orders for over 9,000 books. She saw them travel across the nation, even to both coasts and many states in between. When people asked where they could buy the books, the answer was always the same. “They are not for sale, but we do accept donations,” and the donations flowed in on a regular basis. 

When things calmed down in 2021, Moreno and Joines knew the time was coming to an end for the project. They decided that since the project began in Wharton, any leftover funds needed to be returned to the community. After a brief discussion, they chose to give the money to Hesed House, a local community service organization headed up by Stephanie Konvicka.

 “We were happy to see people find safe ways to connect with each other, Hesed House participated in the community bear hunt and we are incredibly grateful to receive the funds generated by the coloring book inspired by the bear hunt,” said Konvicka.  “We will use the money donated to purchase supplies to promote art and creativity for children and adults.” 

Moreno has been blessed by the way the community embraced the project.  

“When I began writing the story, I had no idea of how quickly it would go and how well it would be received,” said Moreno, who has authored several books. “But it took less than a week from start to finish, including the time it took to place the first order with Printing Center, USA.  I believe it was a God-thing and I am so grateful to have been a part of something with this magnitude.” 

Artist Gay Sommers Joines had a similar reaction. Although she was snowed under with 43 orders for cookies that she had to get done for Easter, she prayed about the project and felt the go-ahead from God to work on the project.  She suggested that the story be funded by donations, so the wheels were set in motion. Once they let the work be known to the public, both contributors were flabbergasted by the response.

“Boy, oh, boy! The donations just poured in from family and friends and community members,” said Joines. “We gave everyone credit by listing donors on the back cover of the book. My heart was bursting and I’m still amazed at how God will move people.”

Both contributors want to extend their gratitude to God and to everyone who made it possible.

“Thanks one last time to everyone who made it possible to have this book printed and

distributed freely to school children around the counties, to doctors’ offices, and beyond,” said Joines. “Just goes to show that if you trust in the Lord, He will see to your needs.”

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