Although Lonnie Burrell retired decades ago, you can still find him working all day at a lumber shop in the Riverview Retirement community.
82-year-old grandfather picks up pieces of old wood and transforms them into pocket-sized hearts, and turns every single moment he meets into heartfelt moments.
As Lonnie Burrell put it, “I hope people think they are special and that they will be loved.
For the past two decades, Lani has made small hearts by hand out of thousands of pieces of wood.
But, as he tells you, this is an interest that started by accident.
“I was in my basement, I saw a beautiful tree, so I made a heart for my wife. She loved it, so I did it more and more,” Loney said.
In fact this year alone he has produced about 1,500 hearts.
Loni draws each heart, cuts it out, and sands it using paper with three different sands so it is smooth.
It takes about 20 minutes to create a wooden heart.
Lani has always loved carpentry and is more interested in doing this work.
As a child growing up on a farm in Oregon, he would create popcorn bowls and truck racks to take their livestock to the exhibition.
Now, he is using his talents to make a difference in the lives of strangers.
“I work hard to make sure everyone has a heart. With anyone, I’m in touch with a maid, a shop clerk and small children. I make sure their mother is fine and I ask if they need a little heart,” Lani said.
Loni never leaves the house without a heart full of pockets.
Recently, he presented a special heart marked with a knot to a woman in line in Costco.
“I gave it to her and there were tears in her eyes. She told me, ‘I have a hole in my heart since my son died last year,'” Loney said.
About a decade ago, Lani began donating her wooden hearts to several local schools.
When a student has a hard time, counselors will break the heart collection and ask them to choose one.
Wooden hearts made from all kinds of wood
“Every counselor in schools has a story to tell. One time a boy came to the office of a school counselor, unhappy, and they let him take a heart. The grain of the tree was like a man with outstretched hands, the boy said, ‘In it came my angel.’ “
Moments like these are when Loni is put in the woods, sanding, chopping and sanding, so every heart will be right.
So everyone has a pocket-sized reminder of how much they are loved.
“It’s worth doing. I feel like I have to keep going. There are a lot of people with broken hearts. It’s not about me; it’s about the heart,” Loney said.