'Sew' thoughtful: seniors/students donate handmade dolls to hospital
by Holly Tsang
Sep 07, 2010 | 6091 views | 0 0 comments | 54 54 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Maspeth Kiwanis President Nunzio Russo, Selfhelp Maspeth Senior Center Members Olga, Camille Arenare, Evelyn Matteo and St. Mary’s Vice President of Development Jan Mittan.
At a time when many healthcare facilities are strapped for resources, every little bit counts. Olga Demko gives back the best way she knows how; for the last five years, she has sewn and stuffed fabric dolls that can be doodled on with marker, which she donates to St. Mary’s Hospital for Children in Bayside.

As she gets older, however, it becomes difficult to do it alone and more assistance is required. Fellow seniors Camille Arenare and Evelyn Matteo have helped out for the past three years, and today members of I.S. 73’s Builder’s Club, a younger chapter of service organization Maspeth Kiwanis, pitch in as well.

The students meet with Demko, Arenare and Matteo at Maspeth Selfhelp Senior Center once a week after school for one hour. The three ladies prepare the materials, trace the patterns and provide any necessary instruction.

“Some students don’t know how to sew so we show them,” said Demko. “More or less they’re supposed to do everything themselves, but we’re overseeing them.”

Matteo pointed out the children learn valuable sewing skills, including how to thread a needle and how to do certain stitches. Moreover, the arrangement always ends up being a lot of fun for both the seniors and students.

“We like working with the children,” she said. “We usually joke around with them.”

Arenare added, “This keeps us young and energized.”

Maspeth Kiwanis President Nunzio Russo chuckled at the reversal of roles.

“Usually it’s kids helping the seniors,” he said. “In this case it’s the seniors helping the kids.”

St. Mary’s Vice President of Development Jan Mittan was on hand September 2 to accept the donation of 25 dolls, which are given to the facility’s in-patients, children with complicated health conditions often resulting from premature birth.

She pointed out that in addition to the hospital’s therapeutic program, the dolls can also be used in the healing arts program.

“Some of the children may be non-verbal, and expressing themselves through art is important,” said Mittan.

Demko hopes to continue the project, which comes to completion over the course of one school year, for as long as she can because it has far-reaching benefits.

“It’s for a good cause and it could make a big difference,” said Demko. “It teaches the children to do something for somebody else.”

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