New Program Gives Tangible Meaning to TCGH’s Mission

July 01, 2006 | Steve Willis

When you’re ill, nothing seems quite as comforting as a soft, warm blanket—even more so when it’s a handmade gift from someone who has lovingly connected each stitch to create something more meaningful than a simple piece of cloth.

That’s the purpose behind Cover Me With Care, a program initiated earlier this year at Tillamook County General Hospital (TCGH) in Tillamook, Ore. The physical comfort of the donated, handmade quilts and the hours required to make each gift are a tangible expression of the hospital’s mission to share God’s love by providing physical, mental and spiritual healing.

The program was started when Pat Valenti, infection control nurse, whose mother received a handmade afghan while she was a hospice patient in another state, talked with Velda Handler, TCGH's manager of the medical/surgical unit and ICU. Handler then proposed the program to the hospital’s charge nurses.

They enthusiastically embraced the idea, so Handler put out a call for handmade afghans, quilts and lap robes. The response was overwhelming: At least 40 people answered the call, including community residents who learned about the program through relatives and friends who work at the hospital. Even 12 young people in the local 4-H Club signed up to participate.

Donations began arriving in January 2006, and Handler said the hospital had received at least 50 handmade items by mid-May 2006. Nurses identify patients they feel would benefit from one of the items, and they talk with the patient or family members about favorite colors and other criteria that help them choose an appropriate gift.

When phlebotomist Marie McCabe read Handler’s e-mail about Cover Me With Care, she had no doubt about how to respond. As an avid needle worker, McCabe has knitted and crocheted for the past 25 years. As a breast cancer survivor, she knows firsthand how it feels to receive a special gift when you’re not feeling well.

“Having been ill myself, I know that any thoughtfulness means ten times more when you are sick than when you’re healthy,” she said.

McCabe got right to work, finishing an afghan she had previously started—a five-foot-square patchwork in blue, yellow and white. Her afghan was the first donation to the program, and she has made four more since then.

Fittingly, McCabe’s first afghan went to Geraldine “Jerry” Trump, a pneumonia patient who, like McCabe, loved to knit, crochet and quilt. Although Jerry Trump was never aware of the gift since she passed away two days earlier, her husband, Moe, said he and other family members were touched by the thoughtfulness and generosity of the handmade quilt.

Later, Moe Trump had the opportunity to personally thank McCabe and give back to the Cover Me With Care program through a donation of yarn that Jerry Trump had not had a chance to use. McCabe’s afghan is now displayed in the Trump home, a reminder of the many kindnesses Jerry Trump and her family received at TCGH.