Gifts of Love

December 1, 2012 | By More

Like Santa and his workshop elves, the mostly silver haired ladies of the Crow Mountain Homemaker’s Extension Club of Pope County have been working nonstop all year to make Christmas gifts for children and seniors in need of a little extra comfort and joy during the holidays. The gifts will be donated to children at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital during the facility’s annual Festival of Stars on Friday, December 14 and to residents at the Russellville Nursing Home.

Club members vary in age with most 50 or above, but a few are in their 80’s and 90’s. Yet, age doesn’t slow these ladies down. The club’s first President, 98-year- old Lillie Johnson, was still an active member when she passed away last year.

“We love what we do so this never get old for us,” said Project Chairman, Jane Moody, who said the 60-year- old club has survived longer than any other club formed in the community of the mountain.

Jeri Vangilder, Pope County Extension Agent-Family and Consumer Sciences, said Extension Service homemaker’s clubs in Arkansas started 100 years ago to teach practical domestic skills like canning and mattress making but have evolved over the years to include not only home economics education but lessons in leadership and community involvement.

The Crow Mountain club has always had a love for their community and looked for ways to be of service to others, said Vangilder.

“The club does have the education and socials aspects but these women come together for a common cause.”

This year alone, the seven core members along with several non-member contributors, have knitted, crocheted and sewn more than 400 caps, pillows, lap blankets, aprons, scarves, teaching dolls and comfort wraps in shapes and sizes to fit recipients from the tiniest newborn to wheelchair-bound octogenarians. Last year the group donated 700 items to Arkansas Children’s Hospital holiday event, Festival of Stars, and we try to make 100 items every month, said Moody.

Robin Reynolds, Director of Volunteer Services at Arkansas Children’s Hospital noted that the Crow Mountain club has a long history of giving of their time and are strong supporters.

“We have a favorite saying here that the gift of time is the greatest gift anyone can give to the hospital. Many of the patients and their families are so thankful for the handmade items; we get thank you letters all the time,” said Reynolds.

Pillows are a popular gift and the group makes them in many sizes depending on the intended use.

“Pillows can be a real comfort. We make tube- shaped body pillows for preemie babies so they can be turned on their sides; special sized pillows for women who are recovering from breast cancer; pillows to fit in wheelchairs; child sized pillows.; oversize pillows. We make all kinds,” said Moody.

According to Reynolds, some of these pillows are used in the cardiac care unit for young patients to hold when they need to cough and tube shaped ‘boppers,” which help re-position patients, are also comforting.

Sometimes the hospital staff will also request a pillow for a special use said Moody. For instance, a physician requested we make special pillows for children to use when they do spinal tap procedures. The child must bend over a table during the procedure with a special stabilizing pillow placed under the child’s hips but there was nothing for the child to lay his or her head, so we started making little comfort pillows for each child.

The ladies also make cloth “teaching” dolls. “While the dolls have hinged arms, legs, knees and elbows, we never put faces or hair on these dolls. This way the children can identify with their dolls and it gives them a level of comfort. You can imagine how scared they must be when they come into the hospital,” said Moody.

Reynolds noted that these teaching dolls, which the children get to keep, are used in multiple ways.

“An Education Specialist at the Children’s Hospital uses one of these dolls to explain a child’s illness and location of upcoming procedures .The dolls also become autograph dolls for loved ones and care- givers to sign and are also used in art therapy so the children can create their own dolls,” said Reynolds.

Warm crocheted and knitted caps are another staple item the group makes.

“It takes about five hours to make each crocheted or knitted cap,” said Moody, who added that most caps go to Knitting for Noggins program at the Children’s Hospital. Since Knitting of Noggins began in 2006, 220,000 hats have been given to our patients, added Reynolds.

Thousands of hours go into this labor of love, said Moody, who added that the not- for-profit club also depends on donations of material, stuffing and knitting thread for these projects.

“We are always grateful for donations, particularly of thread/yarn and fabric as it is getting so expensive. Anyone who donates to us becomes part of this,” she added.

“We’ve had lots of people who have been really good to us. We are blessed. There never was a person who did anything worth doing that did not receive more than he gave!” said Moody, who also thanked her husband Bill for always being there to help.

Moody also said the club welcomes new members of all ages to join their “labor of love”. “We would love to get some younger members so we can keep the club’s charitable works going for many years to come. We always have fun and have become an extended family of sorts so we help each other in all sorts of ways. Members who no longer drive are often picked up by other members and besides working together on projects, we have a monthly “eye-opener” that teaches us some very good tips, she added.

If you would like to join the Crow Mountain Extension Club, make a donation of materials or to find out how you can help the Crow Mountain Extension Club make the holiday’s bright for those in need, contact Janie Moody at Janemoody4@ gmail.com or call (479) 970-8210.

For more information on volunteering at AR Children’s Hospital or to contribute to “Festival of Stars” on Dec 14 go to www.archildrens.org/volunteer.

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