Women with the Sacred Heart Catholic Community stay busy thinking of and doing things for others. They are “putting their faith into action.”
On Wednesday, Carol Schibi, Marge Wehman and Karen Benson were at the church parish helping prepare a healthy lunch with JoAnn Martin. The women were only a few that often work together creating busy blankets for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, sewing clothing protectors for the elderly and knitting or crocheting prayer shawls for the sick.
“We had a pastor that used to be here and he called us the grandmoms,” Schibi said. “We started out last year with ‘Being a Mary in a Martha World’ Bible study and it just kind of evolved into one Bible study after another and pretty soon we decided we needed to be putting our faith into action. Because words are great, but we needed to be doing something.”
She added that they have six luncheons a year. On Wednesday, they were serving a vegetarian meal that focused on heart health. The meal was for anyone who wished to come in and eat at the parish. The women noted that Beverly Wilkerson usually takes care of the luncheons, but since she was out of town, Martin was overseeing it this month.
The women were excited to show and explain the clothing protectors, which are bibs specially made for the elderly in nursing homes. The protectors look like button-up shirts and preserve the dignity of the elderly when they eat their meals.
“They are going over very well with the men,” Schibi said. “Because the men don’t like to wear bibs, but they will wear these.”
The protectors are easily slipped over one’s head and have pockets in front.
“We make them for men and women,” Benson added.
To date the women have made 35 shirt protectors and 45 busy blankets. Schilbi said the busy blanket tries to “appeal to all of the senses” for someone with dementia.
“The tactile, texture … they like things they can explore,” she added. “So, this little book opens up, and we have sound with the bells.”
Also inside a small pocket is a “surprise” — an elephant.
“Pockets are always popular,” Schibi noted.
Benson added that each busy blanket is different and often has buttons, beads and zippers. The women make the blankets for four different nursing homes and found that if the homes had to purchase them it would cost $80 to $90 each.
They were asked if they thought of the concept themselves.
“You know sometimes I think God taps us on the shoulder and says ‘I have something I need you to do,’” Schibi said. “We were sitting around at Bible study and it was like, we need something that puts our faith into action. One of our members brought in one of the shirt bibs and she brought in a pattern. We thought ‘we can do those.’ Then it popped into our heads ‘well what about busy blankets?’”
Martin, who is the administrator at the Pettis County Health Center, said there are several types of dementia.
“The thought processes become disordered,” she noted. “So people will be moving their hands and the busy blankets help them to focus their thoughts. When you are talking about dementia, you are talking about portions of the brain that are not functioning as they normally do … it keeps their hands focused and busy in a way that is more therapeutic.”
The women said for the nursing homes the busy blankets are an answer to prayer.
“We took four Tuesdays in a row and made a whole bunch of stuff,” Schibi said.
The women will begin working on the projects again in January. It is their hope that the projects extend outside of the Sedalia community. They have already had people from Pilot Grove, Hannibal and Pennsylvania inquire about making items for their communities.
“It’s actually spreading beyond here,” Schibi said. “I had a lady from my hometown call and asked if she could have one of the patterns, because she’s going to make bibs for the nursing home in her community.”
She added that she hopes other organizations or churches in the community begin making the busy blankets and clothing protectors also.
“We are glad to talk to them or share,” Schibi said. “They don’t have to come here, we can show them how to do it, because the need is great.”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or on Twitter @flbemiss.