September 30, 2010

Community service has always been a passion of Rosa Smith, a Master Clothing Volunteer with the Larue County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. When she heard Hardin Memorial, the local hospital in Elizabethtown, was in need of caps for cancer patients, Smith wanted to help.

"Master Clothing Volunteers is all about giving back to the community and sharing the gift that you have," she said.

Smith and Theresa Howard, Larue County family and consumer sciences extensionagent, began advertising in the newspaper and Extension Homemaker newsletter for volunteers to help make the caps during the office's monthly Open Sew Day.

Since the project began this spring, Smith has led the group in making seasonal items for cancer patients including fleece comfort caps, cap accessories, sleeping caps, summer scarves and pillows. While some of their fabric was donated, most of it has been brought in by Smith or other volunteers to share and exchange.

Making the caps is truly an emotional experience for volunteer Judy Bridges.

"Both of my parents had cancer, so I have a soft spot for cancer patients," she said. "My mom went through chemotherapy and lost her hair, but she didn't have a program like this that would offer her a hat."

Smith delivers the hats each month to the hospital. Those that are too small for adult patients are sent to Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville. So far she has received letters from hospital personnel and phone calls from cap recipients thanking her for doing this project.

Even though it only kicked off this year, the project extended beyond the monthly sewing group to a local Girl Scout Troop, who stuffed and sewed heart-shaped pillows.

"It's a great way to let the community know that extension volunteers are working on projects and interested in giving back to the community," Howard said.

Volunteers didn't need any previous sewing experience to participate in the project. While some of the sewers are Extension Homemakers, for some this is their first experience with extension. Their love of sewing and community service inspired them to participate.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to promote our other projects to them and fully integrate them into extension," Howard said.

As part of the Master Clothing Volunteer program, Smith teaches several sewing classes throughout the year. In each class, she tries to integrate a community service project. In November, students from a previous body shape and pattern design class are hosting a fashion show and lunch with the proceeds going to Springhaven, the area's domestic violence center.