Love in Every Stitch

Groups gather at Plantation for annual Hospice project


The warmth and noise of Ponte Vedra’s Plantation dining room betrayed nothing of the harsh wind chill biting through the air outside on Feb. 10 — and no cold snap would keep Ponte Vedra community members from pouring inside, needles and thread in tow.

For the ninth year in a row, they’ve kept the tradition of Work Your Heart Out Wednesday alive, an annual event in which community members are welcome to stuff and sew pillows for hospice patients during the week of Valentine’s Day.

The event was started in 2007 by the Ocean Wave Quilters Guild founder, Bonnie Talley. The group, who also quilts blankets for Northeast Florida Community Hospice, have prepared year round for the assembly of the pillows.

“Everyone’s welcome to help however they can,” Talley said. “Just pull up a chair!”

This year, visitors were ushered in to the sight of the guild member’s projects in addition to the pillows; a plethora of quilting squares, hand-patched plush animals and accessories lovingly pieced together serve as a reminder of the event’s purpose — spreading a message of love and hope to others.

“I starting helping because my husband was on hospice shortly before he passed,” said Susan Knapp, a guild member of 11 years. “And when you’re going through something like that it’s just nice to know that there’s people who want to help.”

That sentiment that rings true for all the guild members, who had pre-assembled roughly 700 pillows to be stuffed and sewn before the event. It’s a number almost doubled from previous years’ 400, and an outpouring of support that community members were thankful to report.

At the top of the first hour, Talley sounds a bell.

“We’ve finished 100 pillows!” she announced. The room erupted into cheers before everyone set back to work; just 30 minutes passed before Talley announced their progress again, and it’s clear the stuffers have made quick work of their pillow piles.

“There’s a lot to finish, but it’s a good thing,” said Laraine Short, stitching a pillow shut before adding it to an ever-growing pile. “The more the better!”

As mounds of cushions began to dot each table, the volunteers’ efforts showed their unwavering commitment to support those in need for yet another year. Shortly after, they were adorned with heartfelt sentiments carrying words of encouragement to the recipients — the final touch to a lovingly, handmade gift.

“It’s really about the thought you put into it,” Short explained. “These could easily be [finished] with a machine, but to do it by hand … shows a lot more care.”