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“You are bringing joy to children. We have a lot of children that don’t have hands to hold them or items that comfort them. Thank you, thank you for providing these children with some comfort.” That was the message personally delivered by Rhonda Fitzsimmons, community engagement supervisor for Volunteer Services at Bethany Christian Services.

The doll project idea came from Sr. Nancy Malburg. She worked with Monica Anderson to develop the project as part of the Energize Your Brain series. “Energizing and engaging your brain in this activity will result in engaging children,” Monica says to the Sisters at the activity tables at Aquinata Hall.

“When we do an activity, we do something that has value,” says Monica Anderson, Marywood and Aquinata Hall Occupational Therapist. “Our Sisters respond to projects that are productive and meaningful. And we encourage others, at every age, to continue doing activities that are personally meaningful.”

“One birthday or one special Christmas, when they needed something to enjoy or comfort, we share items like the dolls you have made. We appreciate you. The children appreciate you,” Rhonda told Sisters.

“We can only go so far as case managers. We now have 500 volunteers like you, and you are special and so important to our work.”

Bethany Volunteer Services Assistant Michelle Roub shared: “We have a couple of projects during the year. We supply school backpacks and it’s a joy to give out backpacks to children. And we also have a very large Christmas program where we not only provide gifts to children but to their families. Some of these dolls will go into those Christmas baskets.”

“When Sr. Nancy contacted us she was deeply concerned about the children that were being separated from the parents after crossing the U.S. border,” said Michelle. “Bethany already had a program where we were equipped to care for these children including assessment, During the time that the children were here, we were trying to find family members living in the U.S. That could be California or Arizona or anywhere and so part of the case manager’s job was to find family members.

The Assessment Center at Bethany receives children all the time. These are children who arrive unaccompanied. “We have two campuses now, the first for foster care and adoption and a second for refugee services.”

There are a variety of volunteer needs at Bethany. Rhonda credited Sr. Doris Faber for her help on sewing projects and rocking babies. There are other projects like wrapping presents, packing backpacks, and more. You can find more information on Bethany’s website.

Sr. Nancy Malburg introduces Bethany Christian Services guests Rhonda Fitzsimmons, community engagement supervisor for Volunteer Services, and Assistant Michelle Roub in the Aquinata Hall Community Room.

Sisters Lynne Hansen and Thaddeus Kowalinski with Michelle Roub from Bethany Christian Services had so much fun working together on the doll project.

Sr. Patrice Konwinski’s smile says it all. This project has been a favorite inspiring Sisters to reminisce about teaching children and their own childhoods. The desire to create dolls to comfort children has captured hearts and imaginations.