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.