Stitches for strangers

Have you or a loved one ever been given the perfect gift at a time when a kind, genuine gesture was just what the doctor ordered? Whether it’s an adorable hat for a precious newborn or a warming lap robe for a patient on a chilly evening, a handcrafted item just feels so sincere and special.

At Parkview Noble Hospital, the women who come together to anonymously contribute their crocheted, sewn and knitted wares, are as special as the stitches that compose their pieces. Once a month the group gathers to share their latest patterns, socialize and turn over a generous cart full of vibrant, completed items to be distributed to the patients and local community.

The Parkview Noble Needle Workers have been officially brightening and touching the lives of those receiving care since 2008. “We saw a notice for the group in the newspaper,” original member Alice Johnson said. And the talented crocheter has been attending ever since. “It makes me feel like I’m still useful and like I can still help,” fellow member Joyce Leatherman said. “You can see how proud people are.”

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Another compassionate component of the club is the source of their supplies. The various gifts are created almost entirely from donated materials. “People find their mom or grandmother’s yarn and don’t know what to do with it,” member Lois Rosenogle said. “It doesn’t have to be a full skein to be put to good use. Some of the prettiest ones I see are made from the odds and ends. Where one color leaves off, another picks up.” And those luminescent strands certainly bring sunshine to the finished product.  “If someone’s not feeling well, these bright colors have to cheer them up,” she added.

At the meetings, once every one finds a spot and settles in for announcements, it’s time for show and tell. As the contributors go around the room and hold up their latest work, the members will toss out suggestions. They propose adjustments to nursing covers so breastfeeding moms can peek in on baby and alterations to modify walker bags. They don’t just follow the easiest pattern. There is a genuine care coming from the hands creating these gifts; a consideration for someone they have never met. 

“It started when the staff at Parkview Noble were looking into offering our hospitalized patients a comforting blanket or shawl,” founder and Parkview Community and Media Relations Specialist Julie Buttgen said. “Then they asked for tiny hats for babies, then chemo caps.” Now the group’s regular repertoire includes blankets, lap robes, walker bags, shawls, nursing covers, bra inserts for mastectomy patients, HeartScarves and baby hats, including purple in honor of Shaken Baby Syndrome and red to represent heart health awareness. Any items created in a shade of pink are given to the Parkview Comprehensive Cancer Center to hand out to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. “The baby hats are tremendous,” Alice said. “They didn’t do that when we had our babies.” Any blankets deemed too heavy are donated to homeless veterans.

And while their hands might be fast at work, a big part of the fun during their gatherings is the reminiscing. The ladies speak of the matriarchs who taught them their skill, some more than 60 years ago. And they relish the strong relationships, some new, some stretching as far back as their memories take them. Millie Edwards, for example, is an amazing mascot for the bonds created through Parkview Needle Workers. Millie attended the group for years before moving to Kentucky when her husband fell ill. To this day, she still sends items to be donated. In fact a batch of gold bells she included in a recent shipment are already set aside to go on patients’ trays Christmas morning.

The women realize they are giving a gift that could last a lifetime. “People think you give something to a baby and they won’t remember it. But they hang on to them.” Alice said. “When we give a patient an afghan and they later pass away, people don’t want their jewelry, they want that blanket,” Julie added.

Their acts of kindness often go without a thank you note or acknowledgement, but of course they aren’t seeking anything in return for their talents. The thought of bringing something comforting to someone during a time of distress is enough for them. “I love these women,” Julie said. “They repeatedly thank me for starting up this group so they have an avenue in which to give. They have done so much for our patients.”

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If you wish to donate clean, machine-washable yarn or learn more about the Parkview Noble Needle Workers, contact Julie Buttgen at (260) 347.8161.

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