Hearts O’ Gold

What began as a simple lesson about the importance of giving back has blossomed into a multigenerational family affair and become one of Meals on Wheels’ most valuable volunteer teams





The space inside the Meals on Wheels food truck is tight. It's basically a galley kitchen with a steering wheel. So in order for five or six people to squeeze inside and work together without nerves being frayed and tempers being flared, it requires a group with patience, familiarity and, well, hearts of gold. Which is why, when the food truck made its debut at the 2022 Pie-K 5K, serving slices of pie to the runners as they crossed the finish line, the choice of what group should squeeze inside the truck was obvious.

In 2021, Crystal Selby was looking for a way to show her 12-year-old son, Jayden, how fortunate they were and how important it is to give back. She jumped on the Internet and began researching what organizations around Cincinnati allowed children to volunteer. Meals on Wheels is one of the few organizations that not only allow children to volunteer, but encourages them to do so. She called her sister Leah, whose daughter, Avery, was a year younger than Jayden.


“Wanna join us?” Crystal asked.

“Count us in,” Leah said.

They called their mom, Connie Selby.

“I’m there.”

She called her sister, Barb Simpson.


They asked their 86-year-old mother, Marilyn.

“Heck yes."

Once a month, Meals on Wheels hosts a “Super Saturday” that allows people who can’t volunteer during the week to spend two hours helping out in a variety of ways.

Snack boxes, which each senior receives with their meals, are built and filled. Pet food is packaged. Meals are pulled and bagged. Birthday bags for seniors are packed.

The day doesn’t get started until 10:00 a.m., which was perfect for Leah and Crystal since it gave their budding teenagers a chance to sleep in a little.

Happy with what she saw, Crystal went online to sign up for a Super Saturday, but the form required her to create a “team name.” It was around St. Patrick’s Day, and all around her were pictures of a leprechaun standing next to a pot of gold. So she just went with the first name that popped into her head: Hearts O’ Gold. In the two years since they first showed up on a Saturday morning, the Hearts O’ Gold have become one of Meals on Wheels’ most valuable volunteer teams.




They’ve not only volunteered on nearly every Super Saturday, but they’ve delivered flowers to seniors on Mother’s Day, stuffed swag bags for events, filled hundreds of eggs with treats for Easter, supervised college students who were volunteering, packed pies during Bust a Crust! and, of course, squeezed into a tiny food truck and sliced pies during the Pie-K 5K.

“We’re a very tight family,” says Leah.

It’s the kind of tightknit family that is rarely found in the 21st century, with mom, six kids, 15 grandkids and 9 great-grandkids all living within a relatively short distance from each other on Cincinnati’s west side. They talk every day. Each Saturday night they gather for a family dinner. On Christmas Eve, more than 40 family members get together, go to 4:00 p.m. Mass and then back to someone’s home to open presents and celebrate until midnight. In the summers, they rent homes on the beach and vacation together for a week. And, on the second Saturday of each month, they get out of bed and join forces to help the region’s seniors.

Leah shrugs at the notion that what they do is anything special. It’s just the way the family was raised, she says.

Maybe it’s genetic, because other family members outside the immediate circle feel the same way. When their aunt came down from Michigan for a visit, she asked to come along. When their cousin from Cleveland was in town, she got up and helped out as well



“I used to be on the Board at Pathways to Home,” says Barb, “so I know the importance of volunteers.”

“For me, getting involved was a bit personal,” says Crystal. “I am a single mom and I’ve needed help in the past. I know what it’s like to get help, and I wanted to teach Jayden about giving back.”

The effort and lessons on helping other have now come full circle. Leah and Crystal’s father recently suffered multiple strokes and is need of help with day-to-day activities. Meals on Wheels is one of the agencies offering a helping hand. So after years of devoting hours of their time and support to other seniors, the Hearts O’ Gold are now providing it to one of their own.

Each day, seniors throughout the area are the beneficiaries of the Hearts O’ Gold, receiving snack boxes or birthday bags or pet food.

“My favorite was delivering flowers on Mother’s Day,” says Crystal. “Most of the time we pack snack boxes, but this gave the kids a chance to meet the people they pack the boxes for.”

Barb just goes with the flow. “Whatever’s available, we try to do,” she says.

Even squeezing the entire family inside a tiny food truck.