Son’s death inspires Helping Hands at Plano church
By Jasmine Young For Sun-Times Media August 22, 2013 10:30AM
Helping Hands, a ministry of United Methodist Church of Plano, recently installed a ramp for a family. About 40 volunteers helped with the $10,000-worth of renovations. | Submitted
To contact the Zimmermanns, to volunteer or donate to Helping Hands, contact Tom Zimmermann at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the United Methodist Church of Plano at 219 N. Hale St. Also hear the full testimony of the Zimmermann family from Tom at www.immanuelwestbend.org/multimedia-archive/tom-Zimmermann-testimony.
Updated: September 26, 2013 6:21AM
The death of a child is one of the worst tragedies a parent can face, and three years ago, Tom and Kim Zimmermann came face to face with this reality.
Doctors spent several weeks trying to stabilize their son Tommy, who was born prematurely at 24 weeks.
The Zimmermanns were not people of faith, but they had many people praying for the well-being of their son, including the priest from the police force Kim works for.
After receiving some hope that Tommy might make it, three weeks after his birth, Tommy passed in his mother’s arms. His little lungs failed.
Needless to say, burying their son was a dark time for the Zimmermanns, but to his own surprise, instead of turning from God, Tom began “wrestling with God” and finding his faith.
“I was the beneficiary of the strong faith of others,” Tom said. “The prayers for our son failed miserably. I should have been angry and bitter, but instead I was praying to God every day. I felt an instant connection to God, there’s no other way to explain it.”
The Zimmermanns began attending church and made the United Methodist Church of Plano their home. However, Tom wanted to make sure they were more than simple “churchgoers,” but rather making an impact on those around them.
“Some people just go to church, but we wanted to become involved and help others,” Tom said. “What’s the point of going to church if you don’t service the people around you?”
Inspired by Tommy’s death, Helping Hands, a ministry of the Plano church, is the manifestation of this desire to help fellow church members facing hard situations. Helping Hands began this year and just completed its second project last weekend.
Volunteers from United Methodist completed a renovation of the exterior of a family’s home, including the building of a handicap ramp, landscape work and repairs.
“We were able to raise $3,500 for the materials, and 40 volunteers showed up to help — which is amazing considering the church has about a congregation of 80,” Tom said. “I’m a tradesman, and with all of the labor that went into the renovation, I would have been able to charge $10,000. Essentially, we were able to give a $10,000 gift to this family.”
A member of the church can nominate another family, or their own, to the Zimmermanns and explain their specific needs. After a delicate vetting process, the Zimmermanns will begin fundraising, gathering materials and seeking volunteers.
Tom says the needs of the families they plan to help can range from medical and financial to poor life choices. There are no criteria to be nominated except the need must be a real one of the family, “not just someone’s opinion.”
The next project to be completed this fall is the yard work of an elderly woman whose husband just passed away. Helping Hands plans to rake the leaves, tidy up the yard and make sure it’s ready for the upcoming winter months.
Tom said the success of Helping Hands has been evident by the quick and eager responses of the congregation to nominate families and volunteer.
“When we announced the creation of Helping Hands to the church, we had our first nomination within five minutes,” Tom said.
The Zimmermanns have shared their story with other church congregations, which has encouraged other families that have experienced the loss of a child and are struggling with their faith.
“We have had a journey that we would not wish on anyone. However, through our loss, we have seen the positive light that our son Tommy has helped us find,” Kim said. “Starting the mission Helping Hands at our church has been very rewarding not only for our family and the recipient(s) but also as a congregation as a whole. We strive to continue making a difference in families’ lives.”
And the Zimmermann family has other pretty good news. They recently welcomed a new child into the world, extending their family to six. They are “a bit overwhelmed,” but Tom said the work of Helping Hands will continue.