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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.”

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