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TALLAHASSEE — Though the pandemic has disrupted many volunteer activities, it has not slowed one project to provide relief for breast cancer patients at Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Center.
Members of the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are sewing pillows for the patients.
Jeanie Campbell – a member of the Relief Society women’s organization – consistently seeks out and serves in volunteer projects for the community. And this one is especially important to her, as several family members have felt breast cancer’s devastating effects.
“The BRCA (BReast CAncer) gene runs strongly in my family,” Campbell said. “With that gene, you have an 85 percent likelihood of getting breast or ovarian cancer.”
She advised readers to see a doctor if they have a history of breast cancer in their family. “Get tested for the gene, and then you have options,” she urged.
With her heightened concern about the disease and its victims, Campbell became involved with finding ways to ease the suffering. One such aid is specially shaped pillows that increase the patient’s comfort during and after treatment. Small and compact, the pillows provide support under the arm, beneath a seat belt, or close to an incision area.
“I looked up the sewing process and got a pattern on YouTube,” Campbell said. “They’re very simple to make.”
“As she sewed for loved ones, it became apparent that the pillows would be useful and welcome to a wider group of breast cancer sufferers.”
So, when Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Center asked her to provide pillows for their patients, she was delighted to comply. She and members of the Tallahassee Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—which includes congregations in Tallahassee (7), Thomasville, Cairo, Quincy, Crawfordville, Perry, and Madison—have been busily sewing and stuffing up to a dozen pillows each week.
“We’ve made lots of pillows in our church sewing group,” she said, “but we would love to have more volunteers.”
She has made it easy to jump in and help. Campbell has put together kits that match the sewing ability—or lack thereof—of participants.
“They’re personalized,” she said. “If you do not sew, we’ll provide six sewn pieces to stuff. If you do sew, we give you fabric, pattern, and stuffing. We even have a couple of sewing machines at the church that volunteers could borrow.”
Campbell also noted that everything is done with volunteers’ safety in mind.
“When we work at the church, we social distance, wear our masks, and stitch away,” she said. “Or if volunteers prefer, I’ll put kits on the sidewalk outside the church so they can pick them up without any contact and work at home.”
For that matter, it is an ideal project for families to do together at home and on their own schedule.
“Everybody can get involved,” Campbell said. “Adults and older youth can cut fabric and sew, and children can have fun stuffing.”
Among those pitching in so far are young women missionaries serving locally. Sisters Emma Blake and Josephina Lealaitafea said they both had been taught to sew by their grandmothers, and that the project helped them increase their proficiency as they served.
“It was cool to remember my grandma as I utilized this skill in helping others,” Blake said. “It was very tender to think about the person who would use the pillow I was working on.”
Lealaitafea echoed the thought. “My prayer was how we could get involved in service during the pandemic. It was great to do this and use skills that my grandmother taught me. Little things matter—and the pillows make a difference.”
True, says Campbell. Even though the pillows are small and simple, she said recipients not only receive them gratefully but find them comforting long after treatment ends, and recovery begins.
“They’re a sweet reminder that somebody cares.”