ONLEY, Va. (Delmarva Now) -- A hospice volunteer who sews teddy bears to help grieving families memorialize their loved ones has made nearly 200 bears.
"RuthAnn has been very busy with orders for memory bears and pillows," said Joanne Dean, volunteer coordinator for Riverside Shore Hospice in Onley.
RuthAnn Baker to date has completed 173 bears, with orders for 17 more.
The teddy bears are made from clothing or other cloth items that belonged to Hospice patients. The bears are a way to give comfort to and preserve memories for grieving families.
Baker also has sewn 99 memory pillows and even made eight very special memory Christmas stockings, Dean said.
The idea of incorporating the memory bears into Hospice's offerings to families came about after the adult son of one of Dean's friends died unexpectedly.
Both women were members of a hobby group that meets to do smocking.
"About a month or so after this happened, she came to our group and she was holding a bear," Dean said.
Dean's friend had joined a bereavement support group after her son's death.
"She said that someone from her group offered to make her a bear made out of an article of her son's clothing," Dean said. "She had chosen a pair of khaki pants, so it was a khaki bear, and she was clutching it — you could feel how much it meant to her to have this. ... So, I thought — what an amazing idea.".
When Dean asked volunteers about the idea of making the bears for Shore Hospice families, Baker volunteered for the project.
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It takes Baker about three-and-a-half hours to complete each bear.
In addition to Baker, another group of women are now making "fidget quilts" and wheelchair pockets for Hospice, Dean said.
Fidget quilts are small quilts with various items attached to help keep patients' minds and hands busy.
"They include items like zippers, pockets with a furry lining, velcro and side release buckles," Dean said. "These are particularly helpful for patients with Alzheimer's or dementia."
The pockets the group sews attach to wheelchairs, walkers or chair armrests. Each has multiple pockets to hold television remote controls, tissues or other items handy to keep within arm's length.
The group so far has made five quilts and six wheelchair pockets.
To learn more about volunteering with Riverside Shore Hospice, call Joanne Dean at 757-789-5000 or email email@example.com.