For most, the holiday season is filled with the comforts of home and the joys of family. But for many in Rochester as patients, the holidays are filled with doctor visits, treatments and procedures. But one area group is working to give those patients as much love and joy as possible.
Members of Fairway Ridge Cooperative’s Sew What group are doing something special for those staying at the Ronald McDonald House. On Tuesday, they will prepare and serve dinner to families staying at the house. The group has also spent six months designing and sewing a special pillow for each of the children in the house.
The group of more than 15 volunteers — women and men ages 55 to 96 —work with yards of donated fabric to make Minnesota-state shaped pillows. The pillows, made mostly of fleece and flannel in every color and pattern imaginable, are complete with appliquéd faces, sewn-on hearts and tags that read, "Someone in Rochester, MN loves you."
Pat Frazee, who started the Sew What group when she and her husband moved into the co-op in 2015, said it started as a “soup and sew” to bring people in, but as the socializing and sewing started, no one was eating soup. The group then became “Sew What” and meets weekly. However, fabric and supplies are always left out in the room for residents to stop in and sew a few stitches whenever they would like.
This is the third year they have volunteered to serve a meal at the Ronald McDonald House (RMH) and the second year they have made pillow keepsakes for each of the residents at RMH. Because the RMH expanded this year from 24 guest rooms to 70, the Sew What group made 75 pillows compared to the 30 made last year.
Oct. 25 was their final push to have the last pillows finished. On this day, most of the group gathered together and filled their cozy room on the third floor of the building. Many of the volunteers have sewn for years, even professionally, but some do not sew at all. Instead they help in other ways. Four tables were set up in assembly-line fashion. Pillows were stuffed with filling at one table, pinned and sewn closed at two more, and tagged at the last. All tables worked with chatter, laughter, and, most importantly, love. As the last stitch is sewn and the last tag tied, shouts of joy erupted from the group. They admired their handiwork with exclamations of, “They are adorable,” and “They are just so cute.” The final products are piled neatly before being packed to take to RMH. There, the house staff will distribute the pillows near the time the Fairway Ridge group serves dinner.
Katie Arnott, volunteer director of the Ronald McDonald House, said the pillows are a fun token for the children and families staying at RMH. “They were very excited to receive this unique item during their stay,"she said of last year's recipients. "All families ... were especially fond of the Minnesota-shaped pillows, because it reminded them of their time at the House and in Rochester.”
Arnott, who also oversees the dinner program, said, “The program serves as an excellent way for volunteer groups to bond with each other and support our mission as well.”
Opportunities for groups of four to 15 to serve dinner at RMDH are available Monday through Thursday. Each group plans the menu, purchases the ingredients, prepares the food in the RMH kitchen and serves up to 75 children and adults. Meals may also be catered in and served by the volunteer group.
The Fairway Ridge Co-op residents have taken great care in planning the menu they will serve (meatballs, mashed potatoes and gravy, and many sides). Residents of the co-op who are not able to help serve on Tuesday found other ways to donate, from picking up supplies to driving residents to the RMH.
For more information on the Ronald McDonald House or to see their volunteer opportunities, visit www.rmhmn.org.