AP NEWS

Opelika sewing group provides hope, one stitch at a time

January 22, 2017

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — On every second Monday of the month, East Alabama Medical Center’s education center is filled with conversations, needle, thread, sewing machines, fabric and the will to help others get through an illness, one stitch at a time.

A sewing group, a part of the EAMC’s Auxiliary, meets to design gifts and instill optimism in hospital patients.

“The meetings are a blessing,” said Leticia Guin, chairman. “We relax and do a good deed.”

Infant-sized stockings for newborns, stuffed cats and toys for children in the emergency room and pediatric center are all made by the group. Cancer patients receive neck pillows and seatbelt cushions for ports. The group also has made hats for chemotherapy patients and other gifts.

At a recent meeting, the women sewed and stuffed yellow kittens for children and lavender neck pillows for cancer patients.

Many of the women have been sewing and stitching in the group for decades. Volunteer Jean Lancaster has been with the group of women for over 20 years. She said a friend introduced her to the group.

“It makes you feel good,” she said. “We love the friendship among people who sew. We look forward to seeing each other every month.”

The group only meets for two hours, and Lancaster was nearly done with sewing and stuffing one neck pillow in just under an hour.

The sewing group was established in 1951 by members of the Pepperell Garden Club. The group wanted to start an organization that would support the new Lee County Hospital, which opened the following year. The circle of women has continued for decades.

The group isn’t just sitting around chatting and sewing. The group is making a difference.

“It feels good to know someone is benefiting from what we’re doing,” Lancaster said, as she sewed a neck pillow for an EAMC cancer patient.

Linda Parker, EAMC oncology nurse navigator, said the sewn and hand-crafted gifts provide a window of hope for cancer patients.

“When I speak with patients about what’s coming up, they sometimes might have to have a port,” she said. “When a seatbelt goes across that port it’s uncomfortable. The volunteers make a cushion, so it cushions against the port.”

After Parker is finished talking to patients, she said she then pulls out a neck pillow or gift from the sewing group. Parker said patients’ faces light up.

“It’s that little touch that catches them by surprise,” Parker said. “I get the fun part of giving it to them.”

It’s the group’s duty to help those who are sick or in need of a little joy, said volunteer Betty Phillips.

“All of us should try to help people, especially if they’re sick,” she said.

Volunteer Carol Salmons sees the monthly meetings as a nice party. She said the group gets together to talk about everything.

Salmons cracks jokes in between stitches.

When asked how she knows when her work is completed, she joked “By the clock.” The group gets feedback about its work from the cancer center, and kids appreciate the teddy bears and cats that are sewn and designed by the women, she said.

Salmon said one of her favorite projects is the baby-sized stockings the group made for newborns. Last year, the group manufactured more than 100 red felt stockings for babies that were born at the hospital. The newborns were placed in the stockings, when they arrived to the nursery.

“We’re spreading cheer around the hospital,” Salmons said. “We’re doing the Lord’s work through these projects for people who need it at the hospital.”

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Information from: Opelika-Auburn News, http://www.oanow.com/