The volunteering story I'd like to talk about today includes many other people. When I say this, I mean sometimes it takes the help of many to reach your ultimate goal of helping others. In my case it involves gathering, making, dressing, decorating, teaching and loving the people and cause for which I was volunteering. The gathering, making, dressing and teaching is mentioned because my sister Carole, my elderly friend Faye my niece and I started on our journey to craft and decorate a 7' Christmas tree for the Children's Hospital charity auction. You may say, "oh anyone can do that", and yes they can but what we wanted to do for the Hospital was a one of a kind tree that would bring them a high dollar at the Fantasy of Trees Auction around Thanksgiving week. I have to tell you I volunteered my sister and she graciously went along with the idea.
First we met and came up with the great idea that we would have a teddy bear tree. The teddy bears would be of all sizes and colors. Then we decided after telling our womens group about our idea, and collecting 100's of teddy bears that all needed to be washed and given new outfits. That's exactly what we did, got out our sewing machines and started designing outfits for each and every one of the teddy bears. Some outfits took days to complete, some took weeks. We would tell our womens group what we needed to complete this task and every month these fabulous women would collect and bring us the items we requested. Now it was up to us to execute the designs. The event theme changes every year and the theme for this event was "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas".
We made sure every bear had a cheerful glittery appearance as the Christmas tree had to stand out from the rest in order to attract a suitable buyer at the auction. We then asked the womens group if they wanted to participate with us. A very special person stepped up to the plate, Faye Rust, a dear client and friend who had a craft shop at one time but had to give up her business to care for her ailing husband Frank, after he had a stroke and was left paralyzed on one side. Faye was his sole caregiver and she never missed a beat. She herself has Fibromyalgia and is in constant pain. She makes fun of it most of the time and says the only way she can wake up with a smile on her face is to go to bed with a hanger in her mouth! She is always cracking a joke. This and the superb home care is what kept Frank alive for so many years. Frank did pass away and Faye seemed to be spiraling downwards after all her resources were depleted. Tom and I would help out when we could and I would give her Reflexology treatments on her feet to comfort her.
My sister Carole is a master seamstress and was taught along with me and my other 2 sisters many things by our Mother. But Carole made sewing a career and was awesome at any project she started. Whenever her family needed extra money for the kids she got out her sewing machine and started making dolls, clothes or Christening outfits. She also made her childrens' clothes and special occasion outfits. She is a perfectionist at anything she does. I now had to keep up with this quality and found myself learning new techniques from her each time we met. I still do.
Faye is a whiz at using her glue gun and we were fascinated at her eye for design off the cuff! Faye is responsible for 1/3 of the tree decorations we completed. I know that this project gave her hope and made her feel useful and brought out her creative side once again that had laid dormant as she put it aside for her love of Frank.
I am made aware of how little I know when I am in their presence and it makes me try harder, so I thank them for this lesson in life.
We started this project from concept to completion from January 2010 through November 20, Tom's birthday. We met once a week every week for this entire time to complete our custom teddy bear tree. Our families were very considerate of our goal and worked with us as we chattered and sewed and glued! They were happy to see each and every bear as we completed them. The smile is what made us feel happy and when they giggled well that was the icing on the cake.
Many of the supplies we used were our own or came from our Mother who we talked to on occasion, (spiritually), and thanked her for buying the threads and sewing craft books when she was alive. Carole inherited these gifts from our Mom and was the one actually having the skills to use them. The other reason is she deserved them as she took care of both my Mother and Father when they had come to the end of their lives and needed a caregiver. Carole is the epitome of the word CAREGIVER! Her family made the sacrifice to let her live at my parents' house after trying to juggle her own family and taking care of both parents. Carole lived a town away and was the closest. She did this with love and devotion. Again, I have learned so much from her. She is an angel and will be greeted with a red carpet when she passes through the pearly gates of Heaven!
My Mother died of Pulmonary Fibrosis and my Father of a Heart attack exactly one year apart from the other.
By the way, we had an angel teddy bear on the top of our tree donated by one of our wonderful womens group members in which there are about 100 members.
After completing the teddy bears, the hand painted ornaments, ribbons and bows, we added a sled donated by my neice, Carole's daughter, Tammy. She found it in the trash and it turned out to be a collectable! It was made in Paris Maine. We sat 5 teddy bears on the sled and then covered the front bears' laps with a small quilt I made with of course, bears on it!
Tammy is my angel who helped put all the 3000 white lights on the tree with me. I wouldn't have wanted anyone else to do this as we had a method to our madness! We start at the bottom after much preparation, and work simultaneously, weaving back and forth up the tree till we hit the top. It's very tedious but in the end worth it as the tree would stand out better when the lights were lowered come showtime. We had about 200 teddy bears of all sizes on our tree.
The best gift of all is when the tree sells for the value we have to place on the tree using an inventory list. There are 100's of trees in this auction.
The tree sold for $1500 and this was such a good feeling. The money was used to buy more medical equipment for the Children's Hospital of TN. Our mission is complete and we walked away knowing our Mother would be so proud of us and the gratefulness of being able to volunteer our gifts from God so that these children may get the proper care they need. It took the help of many to make this dream come true.
Your story revived similar memories for me, Christine of a similar project I did for my daughter's school Chapel. I organised a group of 12 mothers and we made 144 tapestry kneelers for the school boarders who attended Chapel every morning. The girls were so grateful for the kneelers, they put on an afternoon tea in the Boarding House and baked and served it to us!
I bet those kneelers were a wonderful knew addition! What a wonderful way to say thank you with the tea and baked goods, yum!!!!!
PS Such talent you have!
I lost you in many ways for most of that year babe because you and Carol were so driven to this project. It was worth every day you were away just to see the genuine pleasure and pride on all your faces. What a fantastic gift. The recipients will never know from whom this gift really came. But they will most certainly will feel it.
Thank you for letting us complete the project and put up with our singing and chatter while we tried to stay inspired. Our son Justin also gave us this opportunity and never once missed saying hello or asking how we were doing.