Hearts of America, Inc.
To learn more about Hearts of America Inc. visit the group’s website, www.heartsofamerica.org.
You can watch a sneak peak of Great American Heroes with Trace Adkins featuring Hearts of America online by clicking the "On Tv" tab at www.gactv.com. There will be a local viewing party from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at Wild Wing Cafe, 300 Jesse Jewell Parkway SE in Gainesville. The show will air at 8 p.m.
From their Hall County roots, Amy Paden and Eddie Ray are branching out to change lives worldwide through Hearts of America Inc.
Both are North Hall High School graduates and now their work is about to be featured on the inaugural episode of "Great American Heroes" with country music star Trace Adkins.
In 2006, Paden — now a Kansas resident — started the nonprofit as a single project designed to provide deployed troops with fond memories from home.
In 2009, Ray learned about the organization and helped to establish a Georgia chapter, of which he is now the director.
"We’re the same organization that we were when it all started," said Ray, who lives in Hall County.
"We’re still dedicated to making the life of the soldier deployed overseas easier.
"We want to give them a little bit of Americana to let them know that there are people here besides their families that are concerned about them and who have admiration for them and who want to help however they can."
Through its network of volunteers and nonsalaried board members, Hearts of America regularly ships care packages filled with toiletries and snack items. They also send donated blankets to a military hospital in Germany.
"All of the money we raise goes right back into sending care packages to our troops overseas," Ray said.
"A typical package would include hygiene items, powdered drink mixes and food like little packs of tuna with crackers.
"We’ll ship about anything we can to our soldiers, just so they know that someone’s thinking of them."
Deployed troops can also submit special requests through the organization’s website, www.heartsofamerica.org.
"We do our best to fulfill reasonable requests as soon as possible," Ray said.
"Our military are great people and we think the world of them all.
"Personally, I don’t think we can do enough for them."
It’s that selfless consideration of others that caught the attention of the Great American Country network and why the channel decided to include Hearts of America in the newly created series, "Great American Heroes" with Trace Adkins.
Adkins is not only a famous country music star; he also is known for his own philanthropic efforts.
According to the network’s website, "Over the years, (Adkins has) come to realize two things: you never know where you’re going to find a hero. They come young and old, from big cities, and tiny little towns; and they never ask for recognition, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve it."
"Great American Heroes" will premier at 8 p.m. Wednesday on GAC, which is available locally through Comcast, DISH Network and DIRECTV.
There will be a viewing party from 7-9:30 p.m. Wednesday at Wild Wing Cafe, 300 Jesse Jewell Parkway SE in Gainesville. The show will air at 8 p.m.
"We spent the better part of a week with (Adkins) doing different things," Ray said.
"We even had a shipping clinic, and he got to participate in packing some of the boxes.
"He’s really got a heart for the soldiers, just like we do."
Although they wrapped filming a while ago, Ray says his passion for helping the troops didn’t stop when the cameras quit rolling.
"We’re trying to kick off a national campaign to try and raise items and funds to send more items overseas to the military. They’re still out there," he said.
"I tried to serve, but I was disqualified at 18 because of a heart condition. I have friends who have spent the majority of their lives in the military.
"When I get to meet these guys and girls, it touches me to know that they were willing to leave their families behind for months on end to serve this country. It takes a special kind of person to do that.
"They deserve our respect and support."