LEWISTON – It began with a book, “Knitting Into Mystery,” and two women in seminary who began a knitting ministry of “prayer shawls” as a spiritual project. The shawls, created for others in need, were knitted in a knit 3, pearl 3 pattern, the number three being chosen for its significant, recurring pattern in the Bible.

The idea was to knit or crochet shawls while remembering a loved one, meditating, praying or simply weaving comforting, positive thoughts into the work.

When Elaine Lasky, a volunteer for Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice, heard about the shawls, she thought the project would be great to introduce to other volunteers wanting to help hospice patients. With the Hospice House construction under way, Lasky thought soon there would be many patients who could benefit from the warmth of such a shawl.

“From the time we are babies until we die, we find comfort in being wrapped in a warm blanket, shawl or even a hug,” said Lasky. “I thought the prayer or comfort shawl project was a great idea and it is my dream that every hospice patient could receive one.”

Lasky presented the idea to Jan Hall, Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice’s director of hospice, who shared Lasky’s enthusiasm and the project, with Lasky and fellow volunteer, Maggie Pelletier, serving as co-chairwomen, got under way.

A call via print ad was put out to the community for knitters and crocheters interested in creating comfort shawls for the agency’s hospice patients. Anyone interested could contact the volunteer office for additional information.

Calls to the agency generated immediate response letters of thanks as well as the knit and crochet patterns for the comfort shawls. Lasky also contacted each volunteer knitter, crocheter and donor personally.

“We asked the volunteers to share with us, if they so chose, the stories or names of those they remembered or honored while creating their shawls,” said Lasky. “The response was beyond my wildest dreams. We initially had 100 calls from volunteers wanting to help with the project. Some people wanted to create shawls, some, who couldn’t knit or crochet, donated yarn. The stories of those who have been honored or remembered in the work are just endless.”

To date, the project has generated 173 shawls in hues of green, blue, pink, beige, purple and yellow. Some are muted, others vibrant. All are filled with the whispers of hope and comfort from those whose hands created them.

Lasky’s husband, who owns Bell Manufacturing, arranged to have complimentary labels made for each shawl. The label reads, “This shawl was hand made for you with prayers and thoughts of love. A volunteer.” The Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice logo is printed above the message. Each label is hand sewn into a shawl by another agency volunteer, Irene Therriault.

Many more community hearts and hands have touched the comfort shawl project, according to Lasky.

Every person and company that has contributed to this endeavor will have their names inscribed in a book to be kept at Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice’s Hospice House. “Our volunteer, Donna Zahn, is sharing her calligraphy talents to give the book a special touch,” said Lasky.

With the number of hospice patients the agency will serve through Hospice House, the comfort shawl project will be ongoing, according to Lasky. Some volunteers have sent a shawl a month. Lasky, herself, has created four and is working on her fifth. Anyone interested in participating is welcomed and may contact the volunteer office at 777-7740, ext. 1280, for details.

More information about services can be found at the agency’s Web site, ahch.org.

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