Even the hardest situations in life can be made easier with a blanket.
That’s the motto the First Presbyterian Church’s sewing group, Piecework for Peacework, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, believes.
For the past six years, a group of women have volunteered their time to sew comfort care meditation blankets for Sanford Health patients undergoing either chemotherapy, or a mastectomy.
While they make the blankets, they say prayers and words of affirmation into the knots, before tying them.
The power of a blanket
Donna Dwire is an RN navigator for breast cancer patients at the Edith Sanford Breast Center. Meaning, she helps patients navigate through a cancer diagnosis by offering education and emotional support, along with coordinating appointments for them.
She’s been a Sanford employee for 38 years, and in her current role for the last 9. She’s seen countless patients over the years, and says it’s rare if they aren’t moved by this kind, random gesture.
“It touches a very tender spot for those patients, and they usually get a tear or two from them,” she said.
And, it touched a tender spot for Janet ‘Jan’ Arvizu, who’s fought two rounds of breast cancer.
“It was very powerful, and very meaningful to me. When you wrap yourself in the quilt, you feel secure, and you feel more calm. You think of the people that put their heart into the blanket, so it’s very powerful,” said the Tracy, Minnesota resident.
In a Sanford Health News interview, Dwire recollected one instance where a blanket meant so much to a patient, she was buried with it.
“We had a patient that had a long case of breast cancer, and the navigators got very involved with. The husband made sure that the navigators were at the funeral, when this one particular woman didn’t make it. When they went up to pay their last respects, there in the casket with the patient was one of the beautiful blankets that was tied.
“They mean immense things to them in one way or another,” she said.
But, Dwire herself knows how much these blankets mean.
“About 10 years ago, when I went through breast cancer myself, I got a prayer blanket from First Presbyterian Church. You just run your hands over those (knots) and just feel the power of the support and love.”
Strangers caring for strangers
Not only does Dwire know the feeling of receiving a blanket, she also knows what it’s like giving them away.
“The thing is when you give something away, and you put all that effort into it, it’s funny, but you kind of get more back almost than the receiver that’s getting it. So, I think that’s why a lot of these women do that,” she said.
It’s exactly why Pat Boelman has been leading the charge at Pieceworks for the past 5 years.
“It’s a good feeling to be able to help others. Just to be able to know that we’re praying over these blankets, and we don’t know who’s going to get it, but we just want the person that gets it to know that we really want to feel that we’re helping them.”
Boelman and other congregation members have been doing this kind act for years. They say production has ramped up in 2020.
“Our church decided that we needed a mission project to get others involved during COVID. So, this summer we started making blankets, and put them out in front of the church, so people could pick them up, then take them home and tie them.
“Within 2 weeks we had 73 blankets made. We were cutting 6 a day. We could cut 3 in the morning, and 3 in the afternoon.”
Boelman adds that finding ways to give back and support others is especially important during the pandemic.
“It just gives you a good feeling to be able to be helping other people. That’s my purpose.”
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