RUMFORD — Patients can hardly
believe they can bring home a handmade afghan when they are
discharged from Rumford Hospital.

“They are so amazed to think that the
afghan is theirs to keep. It is so homey,” said Sue Bartash, one
of the six Caring Stitchers at the hospital who have knitted or
crocheted about 70 lap and shoulder afghans since the group started
meeting in March.

Bartash works in the
medical-surgical housekeeping department.

Another 30 or so lap and shoulder
afghans, and occasionally a quilt, have been created by community

The idea began a few months ago when
Charlene Cooper, a finance employee at the hospital, began looking for
supplies to help keep patients warm.

Although hospital blankets are heated
for use by patients, they can be used only once before they must be
washed. So the Caring Stitchers decided to make each admitted patient
an afghan that is for use by that person only.

Joette Carlton, the nursing manager for
the birthing center, said some patients have brought their afghans with them
when they are readmitted.

While Carlton has direct care of
patients, and Bartash is in every patient room every day doing her
job, some of the Caring Stitchers don’t have direct contact with

“This is a way for us who don’t
necessarily care for patients to do something,” Cooper said.

Her office is full of skeins of yarn
donated by area residents. They can also use more.

When the group started, the
knitters and crocheters in the group used their own yarn. But that became expensive.

Each 36- by 48-inch blanket can take
several skeins of yarn and cost between $20 and $25.

The group meets every two weeks to work
together, then finish their projects on their own. They produce more
than a dozen a month. While the end products assist patients, the
creation of the warm, snugly blankets is a joy to the women.

“It’s fun to get together and chat. I
didn’t know Sue before. Now we have a new group of friends,” Cooper said.

For Carlton, knitting is a way to relax
and create while helping someone out.

“It’s something from us to them,”
she said..

Annette Ross, an environmental employee
at Swift River Family Medicine, said one patient was so thrilled with
the afghan given to her, that she wanted to make one for Bartash.

Before the group formed, Carlene
Robinson, a secretary in rehabilitation services, didn’t know how to
knit or crochet. Now, she crochets and looks forward to learning to

Also in the group is Martha Judkins, a
food service employee at the hospital.

Anyone who would like to donate yarn
for the women to use may call the hospital at 369-1000
and ask for Cooper or Carlton. Lap afghans may also be donated to the

[email protected]


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