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7's HERO: Boise non-profit brings comfort to grieving families with personalized memory books

Handy Hands Reflections was founded by Jacki Kelsch. The organization has gifted nearly 1500 handmade scrapbooks to local families.

BOISE, Idaho — Jacki Kelsch turned her love of scrapbooking into a non-profit organization that makes memory books for those who have lost loved ones.

"I've been crafting ever since I could hold scissors, you know. I've just always been a scrapbooker, I started in the third or fourth grade. I became disabled about 14 years ago, and couldn't work any longer. I've never been a person who could sit down and not do anything," Kelsch said. "I always have to be busy. So, I decided to take my love of scrapbooking and give to others."

Kelsch's desire to always be busy created her non-profit, Handy Hand Reflections. With the help of her team of amazing volunteers, she creates and donates personalized photo albums to families, helping them through their grieving process.

Each page is put together with love, detail, and decor. Many times, the books are dropped off to the families as a total surprise. The family adds photos and any other memories to complete the book.

To date, the organization has given away 1,457 albums.

The Handy Hands workshop is organized just like a store. Most of the product they use to make their memory books is donated by the community. Kelsh's mother was the one who inspired the name for the nonprofit idea back in 2008.

"She says, 'You know what, Jacki? Your hands are so handy and you got this, you can do this,' and that's where Handy Hands comes from," Kelsch said.

She couldn't do it without her volunteers, a team of exceptional women with huge hearts.

"Our volunteer list has really grown, and let me tell you, it's grown in the best way," Kelsch said. "I couldn't do this by myself and I depend on them. We all work in smaller groups, and they each work on a different album."

The ladies often hear of a loved one passing away on Facebook, on the news, or directly from a family in mourning. Families also contact them when they lose beloved pets. For Kelsch, the kids in the community who pass away are the ones who really touch her heart.

"My heart goes way hard on the kids, I just know how those parents feel," she said. "I just lost my son two and a half years ago, and I know the pain of losing a child. I know how much these albums mean to these families."

One of those families is the Tully family of Meridian. Clay Tully died in a car accident on the night of his high school graduation in 2016. The ladies at Handy Hands Reflections found out about his tragic death on the news, read his obituary, and started working on an album right away.

"He was the only boy in our family, so that was special," Clay's mother Andrea Tully said. "From birth, he's always been outdoors, hunting and fishing."

Tully got a call from the funeral home after son Clay's service. When she saw what the volunteers from Handy Hands created, she was completely taken aback.

"It was just perfect. I appreciated it so much. I took pictures of him and I filled it in," Tully said. "It's more than just a photo album, it takes you from his birth until he passed away, it tells the story of his life. It's heartwarming what she does and she may not even know how much it touches people with these albums, it's wonderful."

Kelsch said the reaction to the albums, and the words of thanks, mean everything. She and her volunteers will keep making these memory books for as long as they can.

If you'd like more information on how you can donate to the mission of Handy Hands Reflections, go to their website or Facebook page for more information.

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