Volunteers are vital for CHI Health St. Francis to keep running.

Volunteers do a myriad of jobs throughout the hospital. For example, Carolyn Davis of Grand Island has been making baby blankets, outfits, burp cloths, bibs and other clothing items for St. Francis for 14 years. During that time, Davis, 81, has made a total of 350 sets. She also makes quilts bags and neck rolls for the cancer treatment center. She also does other volunteer work at the hospital.

“She is truly a very giving person, and it all started with a friend who started making a few things to donate to the hospital and her husband being ill,” said Melissa Griffith, director of CHI Health St. Francis Foundation.

She said what makes Davis, and all of the other St. Francis volunteers vital to the hospital’s operation is their “care and compassion for the hospital and for the patients.”

“They are the most humble people,” Griffith said. “They do not like a lot of praise. They truly give back. Through the bottom of their heart, they are truly giving back.”

Griffith said that describes Davis quite well.

“Not only does she volunteer on Mondays, but she also works with the labor and delivery nurses, where she hand-crafts individual outfits for the newborns,” she said. “She makes quilts. She even makes the bags that they come in.”

Sewing was something Davis learned as a child.

“My mother made sure that I did 4-H when I was a kid,” Davis said. “That was where I learned to sew when I was young.”

“It is a godsend for me,” she said. “My husband had Alzheimer’s and I stayed home with him until the last eight months. I couldn’t leave him alone, so I was home sewing all the time. Sewing was something I knew, so I kept on doing it.”

She said she got started sewing clothing for babies and needy moms after seeing an advertisement in the local newspaper. That was how she connected with Betty Grisham.

Davis started “Sewing for Babies” with Betty and Al Grisham of Minden in January 2006 with the Kearney group.

They went out on their own in January 2008 and worked together until July 2015 when Betty died.

“I’ve been doing it on my own since then,” Davis said. “Betty taught me to use the serger. That has been a godsend.”

She calls her project “Stitches for Love.”

Each month, she makes blankets and neck pillows for patients at the hospital’s cancer center. She lost her own husband to cancer years ago. Arthur died in 2011.

She also makes two layettes for the nursery, one for a girl, one for a boy. A layette is a set of clothing and linens, and sometimes toiletries for a newborn child.

Davis was a twin. That is why she makes both boys and girls layettes. Her twin brother, Kenneth, died 20 years ago.

She handcrafts all of the clothing items in the bags. She’s completed two bags each month for the last 15 years. She pays for all the fabric to make the clothing items.

As far as her other volunteer work, Griffith said Davis volunteers every other Monday at the hospital pastoral care area, where she helps with mail and delivery.

Davis said she started volunteering at the hospital after she retired. Before retirement, she was a clerical worker for the Palmer School District and Chief Automotive in Grand Island.

“I was retired, and I needed something to do,” she said. “(I’m not one) who just sits and does nothing and watch TV 24/7.

“I like to keep busy.”

Davis was originally from Palmer before moving to Grand Island.

When she is not busy sewing or volunteering at the hospital, she keeps busy with her 13 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

“I have a nice lot of family that I can spend time with,” she said.

Davis said she has no plans to stop her volunteer work at the hospital or making the clothing items. She said donations are appreciated to help continue her work for St. Francis. Gifts that will go to paying for the fabric Davis uses can be made through the St. Francis Foundation.

The St. Francis Foundation is a not-for-profit organization created to support the work of St. Francis, whose mission is to encourage a healthy community by providing health education programs, informational services and quality medical care without regard to race, religion, age, sex or ability to pay.

Griffith said the purpose of the foundation is to seek, acquire and manage funds contributed from the public and private sources to support those programs and projects determined to be in accord with the mission of St. Francis.

Donations for Davis’s “Stitches for Love” project can also be made at the hospital’s cancer treatment center.

Donors can choose a specific need, such as money for the fabric Davis uses, or contact the foundation directly at (308) 398-5400 for more information. More information is also available online at www.chihealth.com/st-francis/about-us/foundation.html


I cover business, ag and general reporting for the GI Independent.

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