Cancer chemotherapy treatments can be uncomfortable at the best of times, and some patients get very cold during the procedures.
Cozy Quilt Ministries of Russell helps keep cancer patients warm by donating lap-size quilts made by a core group of volunteers.
Led by Karen M. Martin for the last five years, the group meets at Martin's house on Cider Mill Hill Road on the last Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon to make quilts and matching handbags to carry them.
She said that the designs on the quilts vary, but they are all made from the same pattern and have a fleece lining on the back.
Pillows that tie over the shoulder and fit under the arm are made by the ministry co-leader Misty Johnson. The pillows keep pressure off of incisions from biopsies and surgeries, Martin said.
The quilt package includes a book entitled "When God and Cancer Meet," and a handmade card. Children receive a book called "You Are Special."
Martin said the ministry has made over 250 quilts and shipped some to places as far away as Washington State, Texas, Florida, Michigan and Ohio, although most of the quilts are donated locally.
Martin said the idea began with Kelly Carson when a friend of hers was diagnosed with cancer in 2005. Today, attendance at the quilting sessions averages about eight, although there have been as many as 11 quilters working in her remodeled attic shop.
"That was a little crowded," she said.
While they currently have 20 finished quilts in stock, they recently had to have some "emergency" quilting sessions after 11 requests in early January, she said.
Martin noted that there are around nine similar quilting groups in the Buffalo area that use the same pattern. "We have an occasional picnic to get together, and we help each other out when someone gets behind," she said.
"From start to finish, a quilt takes about five to six hours, and the bags take me about a half hour," she said. "We have one person, my mom, who ties the quilt to the backing to hold them together." The ties are made of crochet cotton and are spaced about six inches apart.
A recent spaghetti dinner was held at Russell United Methodist Church to raise funds for the purchase of another sewing machine to add to the complement of five machines now in use.
Above a desk in the workshop is a bulletin board filled with thank-you notes. "Some can't believe someone they don't even know would make them a quilt and pray for them," she said.
Materials for the quilts cost about $50 each, and she said they appreciate donations. Once in the past, someone donated $3,000 to the group.
Martin said anyone that wants to help or knows someone who needs a quilt should contact her at 757-8318.