Woodbridge Woman’s Club Pillow-Making Project Brings Comfort to Sentara Cancer Survivors

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Provided by Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center

Dedicated volunteers from the Woodbridge Woman’s Club (WWC) gather twice a month at the Sentara Cancer Network Resource Center on the campus of Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center (SNVMC) to put their sewing talents to work creating heart-shaped pillows and other comfort items. Crafted by hand and made with love, these pillows are given free-of-charge to Sentara cancer and surgery patients.

The Health and Wellness Pillow Making Project began as a volunteer-driven, community service project that would help support individuals facing cancer diagnoses. People find relief from acute pain by holding the pillows to their chests. Just as importantly, they find reassurance in knowing that people care.

“The specific shape of these pillows is designed to be not only comfortable, but a visible reminder of the love and support going out to people who are dealing with a cancer or other serious medical diagnosis,” said Sentara Cancer Navigator Heather Byrne. “Every person who receives one of these beautiful pillows is touched to know its origin.”

WWC member Phyllis Zimmerman launched the project nine years ago and continues to sew to this day. The tally of heart pillows created last year was 170 and the dedicated WWC craftswomen estimate that well over 1,000 pillows have been created since they began the project.

“Nine years ago, I was the chairperson of what was called the Home Life section of the Woodbridge Woman’s Club. Our club president at the time asked me to find a project that would be of value in the community. I discovered these pillows that I thought we could make. They are helpful to women with breast cancer because the long ties on the pillow allow you to easily carry it with you, and by adjusting the ties, you can position it under your arm to bring relief where you might be feeling very tender,” explained Zimmerman.

While the pillows were originally made for those with breast cancer, now they are gifted to people coping with various forms of cancer, to radiology patients, and most recently to heart patients receiving care at SNVMC.

Woodbridge Womens Club, Sentara, pillows

The WWC sewing volunteers cut out the heart-shaped pattern from fabric that is donated by people in the community. Two coordinating fabric pieces are sewn together, ribbons attached, the pillows are stuffed, hand stitched closed, and a special WWC label is attached. The volunteers also enjoy spending time together during their Wednesday sewing sessions that last for two hours at the Sentara Cancer Support Network office on the SNVMC campus.

The WWC has received numerous awards for its pillow making project.  Only weeks ago, on April 6, 2024, they were honored with the Award of Excellence, presented by the GFWC Northern District for the Best Single Project, Large Club:  Health & Wellness Community Service Program.

The heart pillows are not the only project that the volunteers craft by hand. They also sew and assemble cancer support bags for distribution to Sentara oncology patients. The bags include items to comfort a person during chemotherapy, such as games, cards, crossword puzzles, tissues, lip balm, hand lotion, and a comfort blanket.

The WWC volunteers continue to think of new items that will bring comfort to patients. The latest piece they are creating are handmade seatbelt pillows. These are small pillows that are placed between a car’s shoulder safety belt and a medical port that has been implanted in the chest for chemotherapy. It might be a small item, but it can reduce the pain of a safety belt rubbing against a medical port.

“We cannot thank the Woodbridge Woman’s Club volunteers enough for their ongoing passion and caring by using their sewing skills to create these pillows and cancer bags that are such a tangible sign that people care,” said SNVMC President Jeff Joyner.

Woodbridge Womens Club, Sentara, donation

The mission of the GFWC Woodbridge Woman’s Club is a member of the international General Federation of Women’s Clubs and is dedicated toward community improvements and enhancing the lives of others through volunteer service. WWC is always welcoming new volunteers to work on this or other projects.

People interested in learning more about WWC, volunteering, or donating supplies to the pillow making project should visit the WWC website.

Information about the Sentara Cancer Network Resource Center is available by calling 703-523-1599 or emailing SCNRC@sentara.com.

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