Community Builder: Lexington woman uses "Hearts and Hands" to help sick children

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A motorcycle accident years ago has left Lexington woman, Charlene Pankow, confined to a wheelchair. However, she has been determined to keep moving.

Through a ministry she founded called "Hearts and Hands," she has touched the lives of thousands of children at Palmetto Health Children's Hospital.

Earlier this week, WIS and Mungo Homes surprised her with the news that she's our latest Community Builder. Before the big surprise, Pankow gave WIS a tour of her home, which looks more like a mini-factory.

"These two are working on the dolls, she's working on the caps," said Pankow pointing to different women working away on sewing machines.

Set-up at different tables, in different rooms of Pankow's home, there are women making everything from surgical caps and blankets to surgical dolls.

"For the ladies that don't knit, we use the looms," she added. "We use all leftovers, so that when someone makes a donation to "Hearts and Hands," 100 percent of their money goes to the kids."

Each woman is purposed to finish her assignment that is destined for a sick child.

"Those children need the love," said Pankow. "They need to be wrapped in the love that all of the ladies put into the items that they create."

Charlene's desire to help the children of Palmetto Health Children's Hospital was born six years ago.

"In 2008, I was confined to the wheelchair on a full-time basis," said Pankow, explaining how a motorcycle accident years before had led to more than 40 operations and eventually a wheelchair. "My prayer was I could do something for others, not just be sitting in the chair."

That prayer was answered when she learned the Children's Hospital had a need.

"I found out there was a need for blankets to comfort children," added Pankow.

Knowing she could make the blankets, she delivered 12 in the first year. That would only be the beginning.

"Last year, thanks to this house full of people, all of these women, we delivered 5,870 items," said Pankow.

The ministry "Hearts and Hands" has since become a staple of Charlene's church, Boiling Springs United Methodist in Lexington. Both women and men, help create the gifts including Pastor Phil Reynolds.

"It gives all age groups, and men and women, an opportunity that we can live our scripture and love God, and it's a way that we can love our neighbor," said Pastor Reynolds.

To date, more than 22,300 gifts have been donated to Palmetto Health Children's Hospital from Hearts and Hands, and the ministry continues to grow

"It's just unreal," said Sandra Ballington, a "Hearts and Hands" Volunteer. "In fact one of our lady's daughter lives in Pennsylvania, and she has started a hearts and hands in Pennsylvania."

Knitting together gifts, and communities thanks to one woman who chose to use her hands and her heart.

The Michael J. Mungo Foundation is donating $1,000 to the Hearts and Hands Ministry in honor of Charlene Pankow being selected as a Community Builder.

If you would like to donate to or become a part of "Hearts and Hands" visit

We learned after our visit to Charlene's home that she had a sewing machine break not long before our visit. We also learned that not long after we left, a group of people from Boiling Springs United Methodist Church called the "Sonshine Club" donated enough money for Charlene to get a new one.

Charlene called us today to let us know that when she went to buy a new machine at Creative Sewing Machine Center, they not only gave her a deal, but donated a second brand new sewing machine to the "Hearts and Hands" Ministry.

"Two new sewing machines and $1,000 from Mungo Homes to buy fabric," said Charlene. "Just think of all the sick and injured kids we can touch!"

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