One stitch at a time
By MICHAEL D. McELWAIN (email@example.com)
CHESTER - Ruby Eddy could be spending her time relaxing at home or at a retirement village in Florida. Instead, the 90 year old uses her time to trace the shape of a bear on small pieces of material - all for children she will never meet.
"I just want to help. I want to be a worker," Eddy said as she uses her cardboard template on a piece of pink cloth.
Eddy is one of the 12 or so ladies who meet every Tuesday morning in the lower level of the Church of Christ on Virginia Avenue in Chester.
Together, the group makes small stuffed bears which are then taken to East Liverpool City Hospital (ELCH) to comfort a child in need.
"They are tireless," Sarah Wilson said of the group. Wilson serves as clinical director of the hospital's emergency room. "The bears make our job so much easier," she added.
The idea of doing something so generous first came to the mind of Martha Noland in early January of last year. She brought the idea to fellow church members and the bear production line started in earnest in February of 2005.
"We've made about 4,000 bears in a year-and-a-half," Noland said. She then takes bears in boxes and bags to the hospital for the emergency room, operating room and pediatric department.
"We probably average making around 50 or so bears every Tuesday," Donna Stevens said, as she cut material to be sewed. "Sometimes we put ribbons on them and sometimes a face," she added.
Laughter often fills the room along with the whirl of several sewing machines. "I wouldn't give it up for nothing. I love it. I left company at my house this morning to be here," Scharlotte Cyphers said with a smile.
In fact, most everyone who works on creating the stuffed gifts for those two hours every Tuesday morning usually eat lunch together as well.
But the group members will be first to tell the real reason for their involvement.
"It's a good cause. It's for the children," Peggy Williams said.
Noland recently had an opportunity to see what a difference the gift can make for a child. Noland said she keeps her sewing supplies with her as something to work on during idle time.
While visiting Sewickley Hospital, Noland was putting some finishing touches on a bear when a little 3-year-old child came in with tonsillitis.
"I asked if it was alright for her to have a bear, and her mother approved," Noland said.
Picking up a "Dora the Explorer" bear, the child pulled it close and held the bear tight.
"The nurse told the child, 'Now, when you come out of surgery, this little bear will be waiting for you,'" Noland said. "That makes it worthwhile. That is the reason for all of the work by everyone," Noland added.
The camaraderie formed by the group creating the bears runs deep.
"We enjoy being with each other," Joann Webb said. Stuffing a bear, Rose Higginbotham agreed. "It keeps us young," Higginbotham said.
"What we, as Christian women, get out of it is important as well," Noland said, adding, "We have learned to know one another - talk about things bothering us and about fun things."
The group chats and makes that connection while putting together the bears. Some items, like plastic bags from local Sparkle Market owner Gordon Todd, are donated. Church donations also assist in purchasing material and other notions.
"In the last year or so, I've only had to buy 10 yards of material. I do pick up stuffing, paint and ribbon with those church donations too," Noland said.
It seems as if Noland's idea over a year ago has far reaching benefits.
"It's a gesture of warmth and kindness. The hospital and staff appreciates the effort. Just keep them coming," Wilson requested.
Every Tuesday, those gifts are created. One stitch at a time.