JONESVILLE — In bright, vibrant colors of purple, blue, pink, green, tan, yellow and more, a long line of tables at the Yadkin Valley Senior Center were filled with more than 120 handmade prayer shawls Wednesday afternoon waiting to be blessed and given out as part of Mountain Valley Hospice and Palliative Care’s prayer shawl ministry.
About 15 to 20 volunteers gather for three hours each Wednesday at the senior center to enjoy conversation and spend their time knitting and crocheting the shawls, each of which are tagged to share with the patient or recipient whose hands made them.
“Most of these ladies volunteer under the Retired Senior Volunteer Program and Mountain Valley Hospice,” said Gilda Pruitt, RSVP coordinator for the Yadkin Valley Senior Center. “When I go out and promote our programs, I ask if they crochet or knit, and that’s how some of them have found us.”
Up until this month, Greg Anderson, chaplain with the Elkin office of Mountain Valley Hospice, has been visiting the senior center about once a quarter to pray over the shawls and collect them for distribution, but with the help of other area ministers, prayer shawl dedications are going to be held once a month going forward.
The prayer shawl knitting group has been meeting at the senior center since 2009, starting with five people. “We have some volunteers who bring in three to four at a time they’ve done in a week’s time while they sit at home and watch TV,” said Pruitt.
As Wednesday’s short program of blessing began, new center director, Jane Surratt, said, “We have a wonderful prayer shawl group. You can tell they’ve been busy.”
The prayer shawl program has touched many people, she explained, adding she is very familiar with the program since she formerly worked for hospice as a volunteer coordinator.
This new monthly blessing will include bringing in local ministers to help with the ministry. Wednesday, in addition to Anderson, other ministers offering prayers over the shawls were Johnny Enloe, association missionary with the Elkin Baptist Association; Danny Dodds of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church; and Don Hudson with Fall Creek Baptist Church.
“All these shawls go to hospice patients in the area,” said Surratt. “They mean so much to the patients and their families. On my father’s one-year anniversary of his death, I wrapped up in his prayer shawl, because his spirit went out through that shawl. I could feel him in that shawl. They really do give comfort.”
Sharon Ratcliffe, who recently retired as Elkin hospice’s volunteer coordinator, said the five ladies who were in the initial knitting group “knew nothing about what a prayer shawl meant.”
But in its seven year history, the group has made close to 3,000 prayer shawls. “Their first year goal was 1,000, and they made that goal, and they raised their own money other than the little bit they get once or twice a year from hospice to help,” said Ratcliffe. “This is one of the best ministries Mountain Valley Hospice has, because the family has something when the patient is gone.
“The family knows the person making them didn’t know who they were, but that they love them and pray for them,” she said.
Prayer shawls also are shared with others in the community who may be in need of comforting and prayer. They are available at the hospice office or the senior center.
“When there are fatal accidents in the community, hospice makes sure the families have a prayer shawl,” added Ratcliffe of the other ways the shawls are used.
Anderson said, prior to the blessing, his grandmother was part of the senior center’s knitting group before he was ever involved with hospice. She would make bedspreads out of tobacco twine. It took 150 pieces of twine to make one bedspread.
“They are a source of comfort. I also look at them as an icebreaker,” Anderson told the ladies who took a break from their knitting for the blessing. “A lot of time families are overwhelmed with bad news, and it is a great source of comfort.”
On Wednesday, Anderson had already given one to a 2-year-old. “He took that prayer shawl and put it on the floor to watch TV and has it to cuddle with at night,” he said. “When we put a prayer shawl on those who receive them, the bright colors just make their day.”
Shawls from the senior center are used for hospice’s Elkin and Yadkinville offices as well as the Woltz Hospice Home in Dobson, and will be used at the new SECU Hospice Home when it opens next year in Yadkinville.
Stories were told about patients who asked for their shawls to drape their coffins, and one who was laid to rest with her shawl, because they mean so much to them.
It takes about $1,500 to $2,000 for supplies to make the shawls throughout the year. Donations of yarn or funding can be made at the senior center or the Elkin office of Mountain Valley Hospice.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.