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Lourdes Honors Hospice Program Volunteers

blanket1Janet Blecher, of Paulsboro, NJ, has crocheted so much over the years, that she’s fallen asleep crocheting and wakes up to find her hands still moving in the up-down rhythm that they know so well.

Blecher has crocheted countless gifts for friends and family. But as a crochet volunteer with the Hospice program at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, she says it is crocheting blankets for hospice patients and their families that brings her a special kind of joy.

“It feels really good to make something from the heart and know it’s comforting a patient during such a difficult time,” said Blecher. “As someone who has had a loved one receive hospice care before passing, I appreciate the opportunity to give back.”

That is a sentiment echoed by Blecher’s three fellow crochet volunteers at Lourdes — Teresita Solis, of Cherry Hill, NJ; Bernice Fisher, of Blackwood, NJ; and Audrey Braun, of Landing, NJ.   Each of the women was recently honored by Lourdes’ Patient Relations department with a luncheon and certificate of appreciation.

“We are so grateful to have these lovely women volunteer their time to help our patients and their families,” said Beth Owens, patient experience manager at Lourdes. “Each of the blankets that they create and donate makes such a difference in our patients’ lives during a particularly trying time. And to have the blanket as a keepsake for a patient’s family, it’s all the more comforting. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts.”

Ellie Segarra, patient relations advocate at Lourdes, explains that while each blanket follows a uniformed format, the designs are unique. “We ask our volunteers to knit or crochet blankets that are 3 feet by 5 feet, and create them with soothing, warm colors. From there, it’s amazing to see how our volunteers create a different and beautiful pattern each and every time.”

The volunteers knit or crochet the blankets on their own, but depend on donations to buy the yarn used to make the blankets. Typically, yarn is donated to Lourdes from the families of hospice patients as well as Lourdes employees.

“We are always in need of yarn donations,” said Segarra. “Our volunteers created nearly 500 blankets in the past four years, and there are times when our blankets are more in-demand than others. Having an ample supply of yarn is the only way our volunteers can continue.”

Blankets are given to patients upon the request of a nurse caring for the patient. “Sometimes a blanket is given within days or hours of death,” explained Segarra. “Our nursing staff really appreciates being able to give something comforting at that time.”

Volunteer Teresita Solis said it’s an honor to crochet blankets for hospice patients. “Each thank you letter from a patient’s family is copied and shared with the volunteers,” said Solis, a retired nurse who has been crocheting with the same hook since she learned the skill at 12-years-old. “When you read how much a blanket means to the family, it touches your heart.

“Growing up in the Philippines, our family didn’t have much. I’m so grateful for what my family has today that crocheting blankets is a way for me to give back and try to help other families.”

Segarra and Owens said the volunteers are so dedicated, that one of them continued crocheting by flashlight after losing electricity during Hurricane Sandy.

“We cannot thank our volunteers enough,” said Segarra. “Patients and their families cherish the blankets because they are gifts from the heart.”

If interested in making a yarn donation, or monetary donation to buy yarn, or if interested in becoming a crochet or knit volunteer for Lourdes Hospice program, please contact Ellie Segarra at 856-757-3755.


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