The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 12, 2012

Volunteers’ stitches help mend lives of grieving families

Kelly Urban

— Something as simple as a stuffed bear could help a child cope with the loss of a loved one.

Home Nursing Agency’s Healing Patch, a center that provides hope to grieving children and their families, assists youngsters from birth to age 18 with the healing process.

One of its programs allows children to choose a bear made out of clothing of a loved one or of a themed material that reminds them of the person who has passed away.

“The Healing Patch has been around for six years, with centers in Cambria and Blair counties, and the idea of the memory bear is to connect that child with a loved one,” said Melody Ray, hospice volunteer coordinator. “This is a place where children can express their grief and feelings and know they are not alone in this journey, and it creates connections for them that last outside of the program.”

The bears are sewn by a crew of 15 to 20 volunteers. The agency is hoping to recruit more people in order to reach out to additional children.

Volunteers also are needed to sew quilt squares.

Each family at the Healing Patch decorates a square of material with photos, words and other items. The square is then made into a quilt commemorating a loved one.

“Ideally, we’d like another 15 people to volunteer and take some of the stress off our current sewers,” Ray said.

Once completed, the memorial quilts are put on display at the centers, and after a period of time families are able to take the quilt home.

“The nice thing is bear sewers can do it from home,” said Ray. “We provide the materials and all you need is basic sewing skills and can follow a pattern.”

Ray said it’s imperative to have volunteers because without then the program would not exist.

“They are an amazing group of people who are willing to give of their time and talents,” she said. “They make a profound difference in the lives of these children and they provide them with something they will keep forever.”

For more information or to volunteer, call Ray at 502-5875 or email

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