Representatives from the Women’s Ministry of Statesboro First Baptist Church recently dropped off more than 30 hand-tied blankets at Ogeechee Area Hospice. The donations benefit the Blanket Ministry at OAH, which provides every new patient a blanket.
“The blankets are treasured by families; it’s something to keep after their loved ones are gone,” said Dr. Linda Upchurch, executive director of OAH.
Belinda Nelson, volunteer coordinator at OAH, said she has volunteers that come in regularly to make blankets for patients but the volunteers can barely keep up with the demand.
“We hand out roughly 25 to 30 blankets per month, with special ones for our veteran patients,” Nelson said.
Nelson said she is always recruiting volunteers to come to Bethany’s Community Room at OAH on Monday mornings at 10 a.m. to help make blankets.
Melanie Braddy, part of the Women’s Ministry team, was the instigator of the recent donation and her mom was the inspiration for the project.
“My mom came to hospice in March of 2016,” said Braddy, “and in the first few minutes after she arrived, a nurse came in and asked her favorite color. 'Blue’, my mom answered and she came back with her blanket shortly after. Blue and green, with big circles and flowers.”
Braddy’s mom passed away three and a half days later and Braddy said the blanket is a precious memory of her mom.
“That blanket sits in the chair with me every night,” Braddy said, emotionally.
Braddy had just joined the Women’s Ministry team about that time and fellow members suggested doing something in Braddy’s mom’s honor. Braddy and Mandy Fortune came up with the idea of blankets during a lunchtime conversation and the team ran with the idea.
Debbie Hagan, organizer of the Women’s Ministry said, “First Baptist Women’s Ministry serves the women in our church but we were also looking for something to do for the community.”
The group hosted a Blankets and Burgers event in the fall in which women of all ages, including some kids, showed up with fabric and scissors and completed the blankets after enjoying food prepared by the Missions on the Move Sunday school class.
The recent project, Blankets and Breakfast, garnered an even larger crowd of women and netted more than 30 blankets to donate.
First Baptist Church member Theresa Hackle was blessed twice by Ogeechee Area Hospice’s Blanket Ministry.
“Daddy went in late on a Thursday,” Hackle said of her former military father, Stanley Futch’s time in hospice in 2013. “My brother told me that soon after they arrived, a male nurse came in and handed him a special blanket and said, “Because you served, I am free to serve you.”
Moved by the nurse’s comment, Hackle’s brother told her later, “That was really hard to hold it in when he said that: one man to another; a nurse so devoted to what he was about to do for our dad.”
And again in 2016, Hackle had a similar experience, this time with her husband’s father. Former Army soldier Ellison Hackle, father of Allen Hackle, spent time in hospice in April of 2016.
“That presentation was more formal,” said Hackle. “Bill Stubbs came in, in full uniform, and presented it to him. Allen’s dad was completely aware of what was happening , and it was very special to him.”
Five days later, the Hackles would take home another patriotic blanket to treasure.
“When you see the blanket,” Hackle said, “you remember the level of care you received at (Ogeechee Area Hospice). The care given there is not just to the patient, but to the family. The ministry is equally important to family. Until you experience it, you don’t truly understand. It’s just extraordinary.”
Theresa Hackle said that as her husband’s father lay in the hospice bed in his last days, the couple made a decision.
“We looked at each other across his bed and, like children, we pinky-swore, and said to each other, ‘If you get ill and go first, this is where we’ll be. Right here at Ogeechee Area Hospice.’”