MIDLOTHIAN – There was a buzz of charitable industry in the room as 10 women, all members of Oak Crest Baptist Church in Midlothian, gathered to create, complete, label, and organize handmade gifts for the sick – primarily children receiving care at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas.
Two women – Carol Hanson and Trudy Coker – began the group in 1999; each had lost a loved-one to cancer and had a desire to help others going through similar circumstances. Their first project was to knit and crochet hats for girls who lost their hair during chemo treatment.
“Carol found the verse (Hebrews 13:2) that says ‘Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it,’” Trudy recalls. “That’s what inspired the name ‘Stitchin’ for Angels’ for the group.”
Now in its 14th year, the group includes about a dozen women who meet monthly at Oak Crest Baptist Church to sew – and who spend countless hours between meetings knitting, crocheting, embroidering, sewing, and quilting. Thursday’s group included Trudy Coker, Kathy Henson, Helen Hanes, Nancy Greeson, Gloria Fields, Billie Williams, Michelle Nepil, Becky Sanders, and newcomers Betty Talbot and Sharon Holland.
“When we meet, we have an assembly line approach,” says Becky Sanders, who has been with Stitchin’ for Angels a little over two years. “One person does one thing, and another takes another part.”
This morning, for instance, some women were busily sewing Christmas stockings, others were putting ribbons on “Beads of Courage” bags, others were filling roll-ups with crayons, and still others were applying labels to a variety of finished items. In the next room, items made at home or donated by others were being sorted for Friday’s delivery run. Some 30 quilts were stacked in a row, along with child-sized pillows, colorful pillowcases, tiny knit caps, and even toys to hang above a sick child’s bed.
“They ask us to do special projects sometimes,” says Kathy Henson, who chronicles the group’s activities. “We do 100 to 125 Christmas stockings every year. We made satin gowns for the teen-iny babies with a certain disease, and bags for young women to put their personal items in while they are having surgery. We’ve made walker bags for seniors, and curved neck pillows.”
A program called “Beads of Courage” at Children’s Medical Center uses 50 to 60 handmade bags provided by the group each month. The brightly-colored, fully-lined drawstring bags are given to parents of babies in the NICU portion of the hospital who collect colored beads to signify milestones in their child’s health journey.
“Venita Roach, one of our members lives in South Dakota,” says Kathy. “She and her husband are in the ministry. She does lots of hand embroidery, and the crayon packs, and sends them to us in the mail.”
“She’s in her 80’s,” adds Becky. “She was raised in a time when they just didn’t sit and do nothing.”
Stitchers bring their own sewing machines – and extra sewing machines if they have them – when they meet monthly at the church. They tote materials back and forth, from home to the church or to quilting retreats and other work gatherings.
“A lot of times on Wednesday between the meal and the start of the prayer meeting, Helen (Hanes) will knit those little caps,” Trudy says. “I don’t see how she does all that she does.”
The items are made from donated materials, or occasionally purchased with funds donated for the purpose or gained by selling donated items that the group could not use. Trudy coordinates the effort, keeping track of “inventory,” obtaining supplies, and fielding calls from people wanting to donate either materials or finished items.
“It’s been awe-inspiring how God has provided for us over the years,” says Trudy. “There have been times in the last 14 years when there were only two or three of us working on these things. If I got discouraged, Helen would call me or I’d get a thank-you card in the mail, and I would be reminded how important this is.”
To learn how you can help, call 972-775-2593 or 972-723-2169.