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Stuffing for the soul: Church members create comfort pillows to donate

Stuffing for the soul: Church members create comfort pillows to donate
Community members are coming together to sew uplifting spiritual messages onto pillows like this one for those in need.

While thinking about ways to spread compassion outside the walls of her churches — Patapsco United Methodist and Shiloh United Methodist — Pastor Barbara Allen said she had a clear vision. The vision showed cooperative parish members delivering soft and comforting pillows to needy neighbors, with Bible verses printed on the back of each pillow.

"My passion is caring for people," the Rev. Allen said. "Through our coming together as a church and discussing how we can move the church forward and asking, 'Where does God see us in moving throughout the community and the world?' God had given me this vision for the comfort mission to be planted."

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Allen said the statement, "To equip, send and empower God's people and offer love and comfort through serving, sharing and spreading the good news of Jesus Christ," explains it all.

"The mission exists to provide spiritual and physical support to the world, to those we can contact during illness, the death of a loved one and to caregivers, who are so often alone," she said, noting that she hopes to reach out to neighbors who are sick, in need or lonely as well as to caregivers, who she said are often alone in their ordeal.

"I asked [God] what we could give them that they could hold on to along with the word of God," Allen said.

When Allen took her vision to church members, support came quickly.

Shiloh UMC member Edie Calhoun said she read about the mission in the church bulletin. She and others at Shiloh, in Hampstead, had just begun making lap blankets for the needy in February, but she decided she also wanted to go to the comfort pillow meetings scheduled at Patapsco UMC, in Finksburg.

At the first meeting in February, Allen passed out pamphlets with tips on visiting shut-ins and talked about their mission. On March 19, they met again to learn about making the pillows.

"The training discussed who we wanted to reach with this ministry," Allen said. "We mean to console them and help them in ways that will help them stay strong in the way of the word. And we talked about ways to communicate with them. I did the overall training and they were able to engage and ask questions.

"I do a lot of shut-in visits and that pamphlet was helpful to me," Calhoun said. "It helps you deal with the right words to say when speaking with the sick and shut in. It was about being a good listener and how to let them do the talking."

Calhoun said she worked on two pillows at the February meeting. She plans to do more on her own and hopes the seven or eight women at Shiloh who are working on lap blankets will join her in making the pillows.

"Even though I don't have a sewing machine, these are small and you can do the stitching by hand if you want to," she said.

Allen said some of the pillows are being crocheted and others sewn, but all will have Scripture on the back, either embroidered or adhered with iron-on transfers. She said members have come forward, donating materials to sew and fiber-fill, with willing hands and hearts.

Pat Blizzard, of Finksburg, said she has always enjoyed going out to visit sick community members, so she signed up.

"I used to sit at the hospital when someone needed a sitter. A lot of the elderly people like holding something like a baby doll — something soft," Blizzard said. "And when you hold a pillow up against you when you cough after surgery, that helps. When my brother had heart surgery he was given a pillow in the shape of a heart and I think it helped him a lot. A child in the hospital would also enjoy something soft to hold."

Allen said the significance of having something to hold onto is important, but so is the verse on the back.

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"When I think about a pillow I think of what we hold onto and what we embrace. And that is what God's word does," Allen said. "It impacts us in a way that we can embrace it and we can hold onto his word. In whatever situation we are providing comfort, the person will feel the impact of God's love. As David said in Psalms, 'I shall live and not die.'"

Patapsco UMC member Mary Bowersox, who said she likes giving, also decided to join the team.

"Whenever they look at it, they will know that someone cared," she said of the pillows and their recipients.

After her mom died, Bowersox said, she started using up all the material her mom left behind.

"I was sewing and giving away aprons before making the pillows," she said. "People are always pleased when they get a gift."

Calhoun agreed.

"Everybody has such a busy schedule in and out," Calhoun said. "But I take time. One lady depends on me for an Avon book and for the [church] bulletins. And I always send a tape of the service and a bulletin to [two members] who are in nursing homes. Taking something along helps me feel more comfortable and it provides comfort to patients who are hurting."

Volunteers from both churches are looking to nursing homes and hospitals, but they know some institutions don't allow gifts to be personally delivered.

"I know there are circumstances where we can't reach them personally, but our prayers go where we can't go and our love goes where we can't go," Allen said.

Allen said she will also find people in need through conversation with these institutions and church and community members.

"The pillows are designed to reach the homeless, the lost, the lonely broken souls, and like I said, the caregivers," she said.

Blizzard agreed.

"It is good for both the ones who do the visiting and the ones we visit," she said.

Lois Szymanski can be contacted at 443-293-7811 or loisszymanski@hotmail.com.

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