A significant component of the book CREATIVE HEALING PLACES: STORIES OF HOPE, COMFORT AND INSPIRATION is the work of the over 300 crafters from within and around Bucks County, Pennsylvania. What started as a trickle became a flood of volunteers at St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, PA. The time, the care, and the quality of the work were unsurpassed. Every crafter has a “stash” closet or drawer that contains not just material—yarn, ribbon, tools, etc.—with which to create something, but the idea, the inspiration, and the willingness to create something beautiful.
The afghans, hair loss caps, shawls, blankets, and dozens of other items came to the program. As the word got out, more and more volunteers stepped forward to help patients and families in need. What is required to become a volunteer crafter? Simply the desire to make something creative to provide comfort or cheer to someone going through tough times. The items made by Healing Environments crafters provided comfort for specific purposes (mastectomy pillows for breast cancer patients, hair-loss caps, blankets, and shawls to keep patients warm and uplift their spirits.)
Over the next few weeks, readers of this blog will get a small insight into the role these volunteers played in the program’s overall success. The stories will detail how some crafters felt by helping and how their contributions helped them. They will also demonstrate how perseverance has many rewards and how a touch of humor can lighten the situation even under dire circumstances. Finally, one of the essential insights, healing sometimes comes from the most unexpected sources.
If you are looking for ways to volunteer within the community and are not a crafter, there are many other ways to contribute. For one, craft groups in your area are always happy to receive donations to purchase materials. But there are other organizations that you might want to consider. You need to check to see if healthcare facilities are again accepting volunteers on site, but more and more places are welcoming volunteers and are happy to provide you with an application.
Here are a few types of volunteer positions to consider:
- Healing Ambassadors –Visit with and offer gifts to patients
- Respite Companions – Available for more extended visits to calm patients
- Comfort Companions – Keep bedside vigils with the dying
- Music Ambassadors – Share their abilities to provide soothing music
- Pet Therapy Visitors – Specially trained and certified pets and owners
In addition, training programs in your area can be found online
- Eucharistic Ministers – Trained by the spiritual care staff, volunteers visit patients and offer the sacraments and blessings
- Challah Delivery Program – Usually organized through Jewish Family Services, challah is provided by bakeries and delivered by volunteers to Jewish Patients
- Heart Therapy Volunteers – Volunteers living with cardiac issues visit newly diagnosed patients to offer hope and support
- Clown Therapy – Clown training is available online
- Veteran Appreciation Program – It is advisable to have veterans as volunteers for this program, as they can create immediate rapport from shared experience.