Quilting group supports James cancer patients

Day by day

Quilting group supports James cancer patients

By LIZ THOMPSON

December 12, 2016

Snuggling into a quilt on a cold day or night is comfort, pure and simple. But making a quilt is anything but simple.

Those who take the time to choose a pattern, cut out shapes of fabric, buy the batting that goes between layers of material to keep the user warm and then thread a needle to stitch a quilt have my respect.

People going through cancer treatment are especially vulnerable to being cold.

The oncology patients at James Care in Dublin complained that their rooms were drafty. Nurse practitioner Joanne Lester of Grove City heard them, and in the summer of 2004, she and 10 oncology patients formed a quilt group.

“We started in my basement,” Lester said. “In February 2005, we had our first quilt day where we made quilt kits. Two hundred fifty people came that day. There was no registration, they just arrived.”

These 250 were patients, friends, family and others who had heard of the effort. That is incredible in itself, but more amazing is that within months, 300 quilts had been made.

“It was like manna from heaven,” Lester said.

That June was their first distribution day. These quilts, most 4-by-5-feet, were given to oncology patients.

The Stitching Sisters moved out of Lester’s basement and worked in space donated by Nationwide Realty Investors. This space became their sewing center, where they worked and stored supplies. It eventually looked like a quilt shop.

“In 2015, we were blessed with new space in Westerville,” Lester said.

Thelma Vargo of North Columbus said, “As one of the original members and as a breast cancer survivor myself, the Stitching Sisters has given me a sense of fulfillment and an opportunity to give back to others afflicted with cancer. I have met and continue to work with a wonderful, caring group of women who exemplify a generous and caring attitude.”

Over the years, they have distributed 12,000 quilts to patients at the James with newly diagnosed and advanced breast cancer as well as lung, brain and gynecologic cancers.

“We make the quilts and amazingly have never run out before every patient has a quilt,” Lester said.

Each year, 250 people attend the quilt day, making blankets from kits. At least 350 to 400 people work on the project.

“From my first contact with Joanne until now, I have marveled at the commitment, creativity, productivity and camaraderie of the group,” said Carol Fornof, also of Grove City. “I am far from a veteran quilter, but all skill levels have a place in the group. There are many expert quilters and quite a number of cancer survivors.”

Fornof said the annual spring quilt day is remarkable.

“Quilters from all over the state (and even other states) convene at a large venue for a full day of piecing.”

She said husbands assist in moving all the required components for the day and in setting up for the event.

Patients’ comments confirm the end result is comfort and a giving spirit.

“The word ‘cancer’ is a scary word and your quilt keeps reminding me of the hope for a cure.” — P.D.

“Thank you so much for the quilt that was stitched with love. Thank you all for your kindness. Just knowing that you have been where I am today is helping me face the unknown of the days and weeks ahead.” — P.B.

“[My quilt] is so beautiful and I can feel the love and concern that went in to every stitch! I have it in the living room and my friends and family all admire it.” — C.I., quilt No. 37’s owner.

“Thank you ladies for hugging me with the warmth of love and concern with a quilt! You’re all an inspiration to me.” — B.T.

“The quilt did take the chill off when I got my infusion, but more than that, it warmed my heart to think of the loving, patient hands that created it. I say thank you from the bottom of my heart.” — R.W.

“Thank you for the beautiful lap quilt. I have nearly a year of treatments left and it will be used every week. It was a real bright spot in the midst of chemo when you delivered the quilt.” — J .F., No. 195’s owner.

Thank God these women understand the spirit of Christmas happens year-round.

For more information, go to glester111.wixsite.com/jamesstitchingsister. To donate fabric or money, call 614-519-8995.

 

Big volunteer results

Day by day

Big volunteer results grow from tiny start
By Liz Thompson
THIS WEEK NEWS
April 16, 2013

In 1970, a group of doctors’ wives in Grove City wanted to raise money to help battle cancer. More women joined the cause. Many were what we called housewives in those days. Again, don’t underestimate.

Mary Crane, of Grove City, was one of the originals. “Cancer was coming to the forefront and not going away anytime soon,” she said. “We wanted to help.” They started with fundraisers such as bake sales and card parties.

“We heard that a couple other towns were starting thrift shops to raise money,” Mary said. They followed the example and rented a little store on Broadway next to an auction house. The first year they made $500. In 2012, they donated $31,745 to the cause.

They moved a couple times for better space. In the last decade, they opted to send their monies to the Columbus Cancer Clinic, begun in 1921, and in 2005 became an agency of LifeCare Alliance, which provides services to seniors across the region.

“We met with them and were impressed and decided to go with them. The Worthington and Reynoldsburg shops decided to do the same thing,” Mary said.

The Columbus Cancer Clinic is Medicare-certified and provides education about cancer prevention and early detection, head-to-toe cancer screenings, examinations and mammograms, regardless of patients’ ability to pay. In 2011, the program served 3,469 clients providing 1,593 mammograms, 1,163 head-to-toe cancer screenings, and 713 clients with home care support services.

Linda Sharp, retired, who has been a volunteer for almost 10 years, said it feels good to give to the clinic because it helps people locally. “If someone needs a wig, because of their treatments, they can go there and get one.”

Shirley Barnes of Grove City, recruited by Mary Crane, loved working the shop for 37 years. The second year, she was asked to be president and said they needed more help and they formed a board of volunteers. “We didn’t even have a sign yet.”

“We hoped to find a cure but didn’t realize at the time there were so many types (of cancer), she said. “I believed in the cause.”

The Grove City Thrift Shop, located off the north side of Stringtown Road at 3684 Garden Court, is not easy to find. But once you do, little treasures abound. It’s not just about the trinkets or clothes you might find; it’s the people who will help you. Volunteers are what make this trip worth it.

After a little shopping, I got easy answers to my question, “Why do you volunteer here?” The overriding answer is because cancer touched their lives. The volunteers are giving back.

Shirley says she always got more out of working at the shop than she put into it. “The stories customers would tell us about people in their lives with cancer, well I think they felt safe telling us. If we volunteered there, we must have compassion.”

Betty Lewis of Columbus, a retired school secretary with South-Western City Schools, has volunteered since 1995. Her mother and mother-in-law had cancer.

Sue Shilling, of Mt. Sterling, said her husband and mother had cancer. She was a frequent shopper there but after retirement, she wanted to contribute to a worthy cause.

Dorothy Lanch, of Orient, has a little more than a year under her belt at the shop. “I felt like I’d been here for years the moment I walked in the door as a volunteer,” she said. A friend died from cancer and breast cancer is in her family. “I wanted to do something worthwhile after working in the corporate world for 41 years,” Dorothy said. She retired from Nationwide Insurance. “It’s shattering to see someone retire and months later they are gone, just like that,” she said, referring to her friend.

Sharon Downing of Grove City, a 37-year volunteer, said, “It’s a business and there is a lot of background work these self-giving volunteers do. We have lost some volunteers to cancer and some of our volunteers are cancer survivors.” Sharon and her family have struggled with the disease.

There are more than 50 shop volunteers with this passion to give back. I wish I could name them all, but that’s not why they do this.

Mary said, “No matter what you do, or how you do it, or when you do it, you can help fight cancer.”

For more information about donations, consignments or volunteering, call the Grove City Thrift Shop at 614-871-1126. Find out more about LifeCare Alliance at lifecare alliance.org.