Our Passion, Your Health

Our Passion | Your Health features stories on the latest happenings at Penn State Health St. Joseph. Check out our blogs, recipes, patient stories, program highlights, and new services that represent our passion...your health.

Harp Music Offered at Hospital for Patients, Visitors and Staff

Wendy Thompson has learned a lot about the gifts of music since she took up the harp three years ago and started playing her instrument in hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

She has seen the music she plays comfort people who were very sick, including several who would pass away in her presence. She listened to an elderly woman who suffered from severe dementia sing along with her as she played, remembering every word of the old song.

Thompson, who trained through Bedside Harp, a harp therapy instructional and certification program based in Bensalem, Bucks County, has witnessed powerful responses to her playing, not only from patients, but also from family members, friends and hospital staff.

“This really has exceeded my expectations,” Thompson said. “It’s lovely to play for people, but I didn’t realize that I would get so much out of it. It’s extremely rewarding.”

Having recently moved to Berks County from Bethlehem, Northampton County, Thompson offered her talents to Penn State Health St. Joseph. Barbara Moyer, director of volunteers, was delighted to bring her on board.

“I heard her play and it was really special,” Moyer said. “I was moved by the music and the way that Wendy conducts herself.”

Playing a harp in a hospital is one thing, Thompson explained, but being mindful and aware of who is around you and how the music is being received are quite other things.

“There are a lot of things you have to think about when you’re playing for someone who is sick,” she said.

Cultural differences, personal preferences regarding music, attitudes of family members, the physical, mental and emotional condition of the patient and other factors all affect how Thompson interacts – or doesn’t interact – with patients.

Normally, she explained, she simply walks through a hallway, quietly playing a simple tune or even just notes on her harp.

She’ll slow down in front of a patient’s room, seeking signals that indicate whether or not her presence will be welcomed. If a patient shows interest, she will stand in the doorway or enter the room. If not, that’s okay, as well.

“I’m never offended if someone doesn’t want music,” Thompson said. “It’s strictly a personal preference.”

On a recent day in the hospital, Thompson was warmly welcomed into the room of a male patient whose wife and daughter were visiting.

She played several songs, chatting in between as the family engaged her in conversation about their own musical experiences. They thanked her warmly as she left for the next room, where the patient occupying it had no interest in listening to harp music.

“Every room is different,” Thompson noted. “I’ve learned to be very observant since I started doing this.”

At the door of each room, she’ll look for clues that might help her decide what to play. Someone who has a bible next to their bed might enjoy hearing a hymn, for instance. Balloons in the room could indicate that a child is there.

Once, Thompson related, she had begun to play in a patient room when she noticed that the patient’s hands were shackled to the bed, indicating that he was in police custody.

Without pausing, Thompson continued to play.

“I didn’t need to know any more about that,” she said. “My job was to cheer him up and provide comfort.”

While patients are a priority, the harp music is also targeted to staff members, many of whom appreciate a little diversion from their busy routines.

“I have a series of songs that are intended to be uplifting to staff,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s harp music is expected to continue to be heard throughout the hospital, filling a space where sometimes words fail.

“Music often says things that words cannot,” Thompson said.

Downtown Family Residency Practice “Prescribes” Reach Out and Read Program

Penn State Health St. Joseph Downtown Family Residency launched the Reach Out and Read Program on September 6, 2018, championed by Dr. Christina Raguckas. The Reach Out and Read Program is a partnership with healthcare providers to promote literacy to pediatric patients. Exposure to reading in the first six years is critically important because this is when 95% of brain development occurs. Fifty percent of children living in poverty will arrive to kindergarten with below grade level reading skills, which can limit their success in school and lessen their likelihood of graduating. 91% of children do receive routine pediatric care at least yearly; making pediatric healthcare practices a great location to connect with future readers.

When a child arrives for a wellness visit, he/she is presented with a new, age and language appropriate book. The Residency Provider introduces the book to both the patient and parent, explaining the importance of literacy and reading aloud to young children. Patients and parents are excited to receive a new book and the Residency Providers are happy to promote such an important foundation of learning to the families.

The Family Residency Practice did not want the literacy initiative to just stop there. During many visits, siblings are also present. The practice has been able to offer books provided by the generosity of The St. Joseph Medical Center Foundation to siblings and older readers. Practice staff have also taken the time promoting activities for parents and children at the Reading Library; providing calendars of free activities to further promote literacy and family togetherness to their patients.

In the short time since the program’s inception, the Family Residency Practice has shared Reach Out and Read with 63 pediatric patients and their families. Each day – through the connections being made – great stories are beginning at the Downtown Campus.

Virtual Reality Helps Penn State Health St. Joseph Pediatricians Solve a Problem

Doctors at Penn State Health St. Joseph Downtown Pediatric Practice had a problem.

A patient – a 13-year-old boy – was recently in need of immunizations. Doctors also wanted to draw blood, as the boy was taking psychiatric medications that call for routine monitoring.

The problem was that the child, who had recently moved to Reading and was living with his grandmother, was suffering from the results of severe sexual and physical assault, explained Dr. Jerry Lee, a pediatrician at the Downtown Campus.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions resulting from abuse made it extremely difficult for the patient to interact with doctors or allow anyone to touch him.

“It’s really a sad situation,” Dr. Lee said. “He’d been through a lot, and even with some medication to calm him, he couldn’t tolerate these procedures.”

After doctors had twice attempted to treat the boy with no success, Dr. Lee started thinking outside of the box.

Even for patients without the types of problems from which the boy was suffering, procedures like getting shots or having blood drawn can be upsetting, Dr. Lee explained. That’s because patients tend to become hyper-aware of their surroundings and what is occurring, which can cause some distress.

That distress was greatly multiplied in the case of the young patient with the history of abuse.

“I started thinking that we might have success if we could use some sort of sensory distraction with this patient,” said Dr. Lee. “I wanted to find a way to divert his senses away from the procedures.”

With an idea in his mind and money donated by the Reading Elks Lodge, Dr. Lee went out and purchased a set of virtual reality (VR) goggles. With a little research, he found an app that he could download onto his phone to give it VR capabilities.

“I thought that if we could use the goggles to distract him, he might be relaxed enough to let us give him the shots and get the blood drawn,” he said.

Prior to his appointment, Dr. Lee asked the boy’s grandmother to bring him to the Pediatric Practice. The patient was given a tour of the facility, told exactly what would occur during his appointment and introduced to pediatric nurses Terry Fealtman and Malissa Argyle. He even had a chance to meet Toni Baver, the phlebotomist who would draw his blood.

Dr. Lee also showed the patient the VR goggles and explained how they worked, checking to make sure the boy was comfortable with the idea of using them. He was.

When he arrived for his scheduled appointment about a week later, staff applied a numbing cream to the boy’s arm and again explained how the procedures would work. When it was time for blood to be drawn, Dr. Lee inserted his smartphone into the goggles, creating a VR experience.

“We put on a nice, relaxing beach scene that he could look around and explore,” Dr. Lee said. “He was so interested in what he was seeing that he didn’t even notice what was going on around him.”

With the procedures completed, Dr. Lee and other pediatricians are considering other instances in which the VR goggles could be employed.

“We’ll be thinking about how else we might be able to use this technology to alleviate discomfort,” Dr. Lee said.

In addition to thanking the Reading Elks for the donation that paid for the goggles, Dr. Lee praised the staff at Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Downtown Campus.

“Their professionalism and technical expertise was just invaluable in this case,” he said. “This was definitely a team effort.”

While treating patients is all in a day’s work for medical professionals like Dr. Lee and other Downtown Campus pediatricians, Dr. Lee was humbled when he received a handwritten card from the patient’s grandmother, thanking him for his empathetic handling of her grandson, who had already suffered so much.

“If we can make things a little easier for patients and their families, then we’re doing our jobs,” Dr. Lee said.

Jerry Lee, MD specializes in pediatrics at Penn State Health St. Joseph Downtown Pediatrics Practice. The Downtown Campus is the largest ambulatory care center in the City of Reading and includes over 15 specialty services, primary care, women’s health and pharmacy services. Call 610-208-4554 for an appointment.

St. Joseph Partners with Giorgio to Bring Healthcare to Employees

Many employees of the Maidencreek Township-based Giorgio Group of Companies experience long work days. They commute back and forth to their work sites, and have busy schedules outside of their jobs. All that can make it a challenge to schedule and receive regular, routine medical check-ups.

With that in mind, Penn State Health St. Joseph partnered with Giorgio to bring healthcare services right to the work places of Giorgio employees. Care is provided in a 32-foot recreational vehicle that’s been equipped to serve as a medical facility.

The idea, according to John Morahan, President and CEO of Penn State Health St. Joseph, is to increase access to healthcare, and to get employees to make primary care a priority. Too often, continued Morahan, primary care is not obtained, and treatable or preventable conditions go unchecked.

Physician and Residents Provided Care to Patients in Haiti

A recent trip to Haiti left a trio of Penn State Health St. Joseph physicians humbled to have been able to help many patients, but also frustrated by what they were unable to accomplish.

Dr. Jeffrey Zlotnick, a Family Practice Specialist, traveled with Dr. Riley Manion and Dr. Elizabeth Herrman, both residents in St. Joseph’s Family Medicine Residency Program, to the impoverished nation late last year on a week-long medical mission trip in partnership with St. Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church.

They treated hundreds of patients, some of whom traveled for day to visit the free clinic. The doctors shared some of their insights about the island nation and the people they met there.

Devastation Remains

Hit by a massive earthquake in 2010 and again by the devastating Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the island has yet to recover.

“The place looked like a bomb hit it,” Dr. Zlotnick observed. Dr. Manion and Dr. Herrman also were surprised by the extent of the remaining damage, although Dr. Manion noted that work is underway to restore conditions.

“It’s shocking that the island is still so damaged, but there is construction being done, which is promising,” she said.

Scope of Medical Need Among Residents

Dr. Zlotnick estimated that the medical team treated about 850 patients over the course of the visit. He cited diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and untreated hypertension as the most common complaints. Other common conditions included skin infections, allergies, asthma, malnutrition, and worm infestations, and doctors also treated patients affected by stroke polio, spinal bifida and other conditions.

“I had never done anything like this before, and it was difficult because you wanted to be able to do more,” Dr. Zlotnick said. “To see people at the level of need these people were is just like, wow.” Dr. Manion said that, while they were able to help a lot of people and provide quality patient care, it was frustrating to see patients they could not help.

It is those types of cases, she said, that she cannot forget. “In particular, I saw a two-year-old boy with a spinal cord defect that could have been fixed at birth if he had been seen, but instead, I saw a two-year-old who will never be able to walk,” she said. “Cases like that, where our hands were tied or it was too late to intervene, are what will stay with me the most.”

The Haitian People

All three doctors were impressed with the kindness and sincerity of the patients they treated during the trip. Nearly everyone they treated thanked them profusely, even though, by U.S. medical standards, the doctors had little to offer to patients.

Some people who visited the clinic walked for days to get there, and many people dressed in their best clothing for their visit with American doctors. Dr. Herrman said she especially enjoyed treating the children who visited and learning about the culture of Haiti. “We have so much available to us here in the U.S., and to see how appreciative the population was with the little we had to offer was humbling,” she said. “But, mostly, I really enjoyed just talking to patients and learning about their experiences.”

Dr. Manion agreed that the kindness of the people they treated was exceptional. “The people of Haiti were so appreciative and welcoming,” she said. “They were constantly thanking us for coming, and praying for us to have a safe trip back home.”

A Sad Takeaway

All the doctors expressed mixed emotions about the trip and what they were able to accomplish or not accomplish due to limited resources. Dr. Herrman recalled a sad visit on their last day of the trip that has stayed with her since her return from Haiti. “We visited a Mother Teresa orphanage on our last day, and while we were unable to treat any patients, we were able to interact with some of the babies and children,” she explained. “There was one child who clung so tightly onto me. It was clear he was seeking human contact, love and affection. When I put him down, he instantly began to cry. It was the hardest thing I had to do all week.”

Penn State Health St. Joseph Receives Items from Collection Representing Its Namesake

When Susan Sullivan began her position as Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Vice President of Mission and Ministry in January, she noticed something that she thought seemed odd.

“I had noticed that there were very few items in the hospital that pertain to St. Joseph,” she said. “There just was not much at all that represented him.”

When Sullivan mentioned this to her longtime friend, Julie Magri, a retired physician who lives in Decatur, Georgia, a light bulb came on in Magri’s head.

It just so happened that Magri’s father, Leo R. Magri, who died in 2014, was a devoted follower of St. Joseph and had collected many statues and other items representing him.

In fact, when Magri’s parents relocated from their home in Holyoke, Massachusetts to live with her in Georgia, Magri set aside a room in her home where her father could store his religious papers, books and other items, many of which depicted St. Joseph.

Sullivan was delighted when Magri offered to share some of her father’s collection, and Magri shared her delight.

“I’m thrilled to find such a fitting home for these things that were so important to my father,” Magri said. “I think it’s providence, actually.

The items, including a framed print and several statues, the largest of which is displayed in the hospital’s chapel, were given to the hospital in honor of Leo Magri, who Julie Magri characterized as “a man of great faith, and a great man.”

Leo, a second generation grocer in Holyoke, so admired St. Joseph that for 33 years he arranged and led pilgrimages to St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, Canada, sometimes filling several buses with people who wanted to participate.

Leo Magri with daughter, Julie, at St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, Canada.

He also had a statue built in the likeness of St. Joseph, replicating one displayed at the Oratory. The statue was placed on a 25-foot-high pole and erected on a narrow strip of land that Leo owned, towering over traffic moving along a major highway and overlooking the town of Holyoke.

When asked the reason for her father’s great devotion to St. Joseph, Magri said that, while she was very close to her father and knew a lot about his life, she wasn’t exactly sure what precipitated Leo’s love for the saint.

“I didn’t question it, just like I don’t question the air that I breathe,” Magri said. “My father’s love for St. Joseph predated the time when he became a father, and it was just something that his children grew up with. It was a natural as the air that we breathe.”

With Penn State Health St. Joseph now in possession of some of Leo Magri’s collection, Sullivan is hopeful that hospital employees and patients will become more aware of the saint, who is known as the foster father of Jesus and the husband of Mary.

While not much about Joseph is found in the Bible, he is regarded as the patron saint of workers, and was declared by Pope Pius IX to be the patron and protector of the Catholic Church. He also is patron of the sick and patron of a happy death, presumably because he was in the presence of Mary and Jesus at the time of his own death.

A stained glass window depicting the death of St. Joseph is among Penn State Health St. Joseph’s collection of framed windows from its original chapel, located throughout the hospital. The one depicting the death of St. Joseph can be found on the Garden level, near the cafeteria.

St. Joseph is an important figure in the hospital’s Catholic identity, Sullivan said, and important in reminding staff members that their work is blessed.

“We’re about continuing the healing ministry of Jesus,” Sullivan said. “We know that everything that happens here requires teamwork. So, we have the teamwork of the people in the hospital, but also that of a heavenly presence.”

Penn State Health St. Joseph’s values of reverence, integrity, compassion and excellence must extend to every aspect of hospital life.
“The idea of the coming and going of life is a daily reality here,” Sullivan said. “And, we must always keep in mind the idea of accompanying people where they are, and of being present in a very compassionate, healing way.”

Magri hopes that the St. Joseph items she donated to the hospital will provide spiritual strength to patients and staff.

“I just hope that they bring some spiritual nourishment to those who see them,” Magri said. “That would be important to my father.”

Penn State Berks Students Create Videos for St. Joseph

Penn State Health St. Joseph and Penn State Berks celebrates another successful collaborative partnership. Under the instruction of Dr. Kesha Morant Williams, Associate Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences, the students partnered with Penn State Health St. Joseph Marketing and Medical Group Administration to complete their service learning and community based research project that captures – through video – what Penn State Health St. Joseph is all about.

The students wrote, designed, and directed three “ready to go-live” videos focusing on what makes Penn State Health St. Joseph unique – its services, architecture, innovation, and people. We encourage you to grab some popcorn and take it all in.


Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Innovative Care showcases what makes Penn State Health St. Joseph unique and special including the design of the building and its innovative services.


A Glimpse into Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Culture is a warm portrayal of the people and culture at Penn State Health St. Joseph.


WE ARE Penn State Health St. Joseph highlights what Penn State Health St. Joseph is all about.

Penn State Health St. Joseph Physician, Residents Treat Patients in Haiti

A recent trip to Haiti left a trio of Penn State Health St. Joseph physicians humbled to have been able to help many patients, but also frustrated by what they were unable to accomplish.

Jeffrey A Zlotnick, MD Family and Sports Medicine PSH-St Joseph’s Family Medicine Residency Program Faculty, works with new patients during the mission trip.

Dr. Jeffrey Zlotnick, a Family Practice Specialist, traveled with Dr. Riley Manion and Dr. Elizabeth Herrman, both residents in St. Joseph’s Family Medicine Residency Program, to the impoverished nation late last year on a week-long medical mission trip in partnership with St. Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church.

They treated hundreds of patients, some of whom traveled for days to visit the free clinic. The doctors shared some of their insights about the island nation and the people they met there.

Devastation Remains

Hit by a massive earthquake in 2010 and again by the devastating Hurricane Matthew in 2016, the island has yet to recover.

“The place looked like a bomb hit it,” Dr. Zlotnick observed.

Dr. Manion and Dr. Herrman also were surprised by the extent of the remaining damage, although Dr. Manion noted that work is underway to restore conditions.

“It’s shocking that the island is still so damaged, but there is construction being done, which is promising,” she said.

Scope of Medical Need among Residents

Dr. Zlotnick estimated that the medical team treated about 850 patients over the course of the visit. He cited diabetes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and untreated hypertension as the most common complaints. Other common conditions included skin infections, allergies, asthma, malnutrition and worm infestations, and doctors also treated patients affected by stroke, polio, spinal bifida and other conditions.

“I had never done anything like this before, and it was difficult because you wanted to be able to do more,” Dr. Zlotnick said. “To see people at the level of need these people were is just like, wow.”

Drs. Jeffrey Zlotnick (middle row far right), Elizabeth Herrman (top left), and Riley Manion (2nd in, top left) pose with the group participating in the medical mission trip to Haiti in partnership with St. Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church.

Dr. Manion said that, while they were able to help a lot of people and provide quality patient care, it was frustrating to see patients who they could not help.

It is those types of cases, she said, that she cannot forget.

“In particular, I saw a two-year-old boy with a spinal cord defect that could have been fixed at birth if he had been seen, but instead, I saw a two-year-old who will never be able to walk,” she said. “Cases like that, where our hands were tied or it was too late to intervene, are what will stay with me the most.”

The Haitian People

All three doctors were impressed with the kindness and sincerity of the patients they treated during the trip. Nearly everyone they treated thanked them profusely, even though, by U.S. medical standards, the doctors had little to offer to patients.

Some people who visited the clinic walked for days to get there, and many people dressed in their best clothing for their visit with American doctors. Dr. Herrman said she especially enjoyed treating the children who visited and learning about the culture of Haiti.

Riley Manion, DO Family Medicine Resident from Penn State Health St Joseph’s Family Medicine Residency Program meets with patients during the mission trip.

“We have so much available to us here in the U.S., and to see how appreciative the population was with the little we had to offer was humbling,” she said. “But, mostly, I really enjoyed just talking to patients and learning about their experiences.”

Dr. Manion agreed that the kindness of the people they treated was exceptional.

“The people of Haiti were so appreciative and welcoming,” she said. “They were constantly thanking us for coming, and praying for us to have a safe trip back home.”

A Sad Takeaway

All the doctors expressed mixed emotions about the trip and what they were able to accomplish or not accomplish due to limited resources. Dr. Herrman recalled a sad visit on their last day of the trip that has stayed with her since her return from Haiti.

“We visited a Mother Teresa orphanage on our last day, and while we were unable to treat any patients, we were able to interact with some of the babies and children,” she explained. “There was one child who clung so tightly on to me. It was clear he was seeking human contact, love and affection. When I put him down, he instantly began to cry. It was the hardest thing I had to do all week.”

Parents Receive Perfect Christmas Gift

A baby boy, born two weeks before his due date on Dec. 25, seems like a Christmas miracle for parents Dominic and Tabitha DeLillo and their five-year-old daughter, Annalise.

Photo Credit: Brianna DeLillo

Jaxon Sonny DeLillo was born Christmas afternoon at 4:13 in Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Breidegam Family Birthing Center, and is now at home with his parents and sister in Windsor Township.

“It’s the same day that Jesus was born,” Dominic marveled a week and a half after Jaxon’s birth. “He just seems like a Christmas miracle.”

Tabitha, who after being admitted to Penn State Health St. Joseph early Christmas morning had other things to think about than the date of the birth, was equally pleased that Jaxon arrived when he did.

Tabitha had learned several weeks prior to delivering that doctors did not expect she would carry the baby until its due date, as her cervix had already begun to dilate. Still, she was surprised when, very early on Christmas morning, there were indicators that Jaxon might be on his way.

“She woke me up around 4 o’clock,” Dominic said. “I looked at her and said, ‘you’re kidding, right?’ because I’d just gone to bed two hours before that. I was up getting the gifts ready and making sauce for my lasagna the next day.”

Tabitha, however, was not kidding, and, in a light snow, they arrived at the hospital at about 6 a.m.

Once Tabitha was settled and comfortable, Dominic returned home to open some presents with Annalise and to prepare two pans of lasagna. One was for his father, and the other was for doctors and nurses on duty at Penn State Health St. Joseph.

“Tabitha worked in the nursing field and had to work on holidays, so she knew what it would be like being at the hospital on Christmas,” Dominic explained. “So I put together a full tray, and I think that everybody appreciated it.”

Dominic returned to the birthing center with plenty of time to spare, and waited with Tabitha until the baby was born.

“At one point we weren’t sure he was going to be born that day,” Tabitha recalled. “The midwife wasn’t sure if my water had broken, and the contractions I was having weren’t that strong.”

Once the contraction started in earnest, however, it was a very short time until Jaxon was born.

“It went really fast at the end,” Tabitha said. “Once I really started dilating, it was only about 20 minutes until he was born.”

In addition to the timing of Jaxon’s birth, his parents discovered some other bits of information that made them smile. When they got home and compared the information cards staff members had recorded for Annalise and Jaxon, they realized that both babies had been born at nearly the exact same time in the same room.

And, during the earliest hours of each child’s lives, they received care from the same physician, Dr. Mary Ann Mancano, a pediatric hospitalist.
“That was really neat to find out,” Dominic said. “It seemed a little bit like we had come full circle.”

Sew Cool! Family and Friends Work Together for Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Patients

About 25 family members and friends gathered recently at the Blandon home of Janet and Kraig Leiby to sew stuffed animals and bibs for pediatric patients at Penn State Health St. Joseph.

Kraig is employed as a physical therapist at St. Joe’s.

With sewers coming from as far as northern New Jersey, they spent Friday evening and most of the day Saturday cutting, stuffing, stitching and ironing – all for a good cause.

Janet Leiby takes a break from making a bib

“It’s just a nice way for us to give back,” Janet explained. “I learned to sew at a very early age and many members of my family enjoy sewing, so it’s a good opportunity for us to get together and do something that benefits others.”

The weekend holiday sewing event, which has been held for about eight years, is not all business, of course. There was plenty of food and conversation to go around, along with a lot of joking and laughing.

To many of those gathered, the event is a hallmark of the Christmas season.

“This is my second year of helping, and I was really looking forward to it,” said Marian Simmons, who lives next door to the Leibys. “Doing something that helps someone else is a good way to celebrate Christmas.”

Steven Bush, 11, who on Saturday was the youngest member of the sewing group – not to mention the only male – was busy stitching squares for blankets on a sewing machine in the back of his Aunt Janet’s basement.

Steven had arrived at Janet’s house the previous night with his sister, Kristen; his mother, Linda; and his grandmother, Leona Baum, all of whom reside in northern New Jersey.

“I like coming here,” he said while operating the sewing machine. “It’s always fun, and I like to be with other people who like to sew.”
Sewing, according to Steven, is not only fun, but an enviable skill.

Kristen Bush cuts the cloth for stuffed animals

“Sewing is actually something that you’d want to learn,” he advised. “I think you can get a pretty good job with it.”

His sister, Kristen, 15, was busy that afternoon with a non-sewing project. She was tying and braiding fabric to make small octopus toys for children.

“This is a project for people who don’t know how to sew, but I’ve actually been sewing since I was three or four,” Kristen said. “I come from a sewing family.”

Janet, who in addition to sewing has made many quilts, also started sewing as a young child. When she was in seventh grade she made a dress that she still has which included ruffles, pleats, covered buttons and other complicated features.

“Yeah, it probably wasn’t the best project to start on, but I learned a lot from making it,” she said.

Teamwork results in a pile of bibs for babies!

An appreciation for the work that Penn State Health St. Joseph provides in the community motivates her to continue donating to the hospital, Janet explained. She said she enjoys working with Barb Moyer, volunteer coordinator, who helps her come up with a different project each year.

Last year Janet’s group made lap robes that could be given to patients in the emergency department. Another year, they made wipeable pillow covers for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“My family has always given when people needed things,” Janet said. “Being able to get together with friends and neighbors and family to create items that we know will be appreciated by others is as much a gift for us as for anyone else.”