St. John Valley

Group sews comfort into pillowcase gifts

FORT KENT, Maine — A special blanket, a special pillow — these are things that offer comfort in times of stress, and local volunteers are spreading that comfort to hospital patients.

Angie Cyr, an employee of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit (CAPU) at Northern Maine Medical Center (NMMC), had heard about the Pillowcase Challenge from her friend, Eileen Cyr, who makes pillowcases for hospitalized cancer children in the Hampden area.

“I thought to myself, we can do this for our kids on CAPU so when they leave, they will have something to take with them that will offer comfort,” Angie said.

She contacted Eileen to learn more. Armed with information about how to generate local interest for the project and a couple dozen pillowcases donated to her from the Hampden project to get started, she set the wheels in motion in December 2016.

The One Million Pillowcase Project is a nationwide challenge with a goal of creating and donating one million pillowcases to local charities. According to the project website, to date, more than 700,000 pillowcases have been recorded. The pillowcases are a simple way to lift spirits and provide comfort to hospitalized kids, homeless families, and others in need.

To sustain the project, Angie knew she would have to generate local interest. She contacted Louise Nadeau-Beaulieu and proposed the idea of creating pillowcases for hospitalized patients who could then take the item home with them. Nadeau-Beaulieu liked the idea and, using social media, was able to generate enough interest to get started.

By Christmas, the group of volunteers had created 35 unique pillowcases, which they donated to NMMC for hospitalized patients.

Ten volunteers from the Madawaska area currently work on the Pillowcase Challenge Project. According to Nadeau-Beaulieu, volunteers don’t need to know how to sew. She admitted she didn’t possess the skill prior to this year.

“My sewing machine was collecting dust. I knew how to thread a needle and I learned the rest on You Tube,” she said.

The volunteers create the pillowcases following the specifications described in the national program. They receive support in the form of donated fabric, financial donations and time to prepare and launder the fabric and iron and package the final product.

Nadeau-Beaulieu said the work is very rewarding, but she could not do it without the support of her daughter, Elizabeth, who also helps with the project, and her husband, Bob, who keeps the household running and cooks the meals while she is busy sewing.

The local group has completed more than 120 pillowcases, each one colorful, unique and made with love. To contribute to the project in any way, contact Nadeau-Beaulieu at (207) 728-6110.

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