HILL AIR FORCE BASE – Sewing machines hummed on July 18 in the Hill Air Force Base Airman and Family Readiness Center (A&FRC) as Hill Heroes volunteers worked together to create deployment dolls and pillowcases for the families of Airmen who are, or will be, deployed.
The volunteers gather the third Friday of each month to cut, iron, sew, stuff, and create “stuffed mommies and daddies” and pillowcases for deserving families around Hill Air Force Base. Leader, Cindy Schmierer, and her co-leader, Tammy Allen, work diligently each month to meet their designated order from the A&FRC who collect orders during deployment briefings.
One item per dependent may be ordered by Airmen and their photos are taken at A&FRC. The program is free to any service members who are deploying. Volunteers iron specially printed photos and pin them to dolls or pillow cases for sewing. The dolls have cut out pieces of donated uniforms on the back as a special part of this gift. Once the photos are sewn on and the doll forms are shaped, volunteers stuff the dolls, hand sew them shut, and call the families to whom they belong.
The project became personal for both leaders when their husbands were deployed. “The value of the project was brought home to me during the time my husband deployed. I created a stuffed pillow with my husband’s picture on it for my son. He called it ‘Stuffed Daddy’ and slept with it every night,” said Schmierer.
For Tammy, the thought of children receiving their doll with excitement is enough to make her emotional, “Deployment/separation is a hard time for the whole family and if something as little as a doll or pillowcase that somewhat represents their mom/dad that is gone makes them a little happier then that makes me happy. My children received them when my husband deployed a few years ago – my daughter had an extremely hard time with the separation and she carried her ‘daddy bear’ everywhere. Now that he is home we don’t see the bear too often unless he goes TDY or something and then the ‘daddy bear’ makes his appearance again.”
Hill Heroes is also involved with the retreats at Wolf Creek. “Families attending the retreat can order stuffed pillows, which are sewn but not stuffed. Volunteers schedule a time during the retreat for the kids to stuff the pillows and we encourage the parents to try their hand at sewing them shut,” said Schmierer. “We get to watch the kids walk away with ‘mom or dad pillows’ tightly held in their arms. It is also a chance to say thank you to a family for serving.”
During 2013, the program made 357 items. This year has the potential to be a record breaking year with a number of groups deploying – 358 items have already been created thus far. “Each volunteer does a part of the work where they feel comfortable. Some don’t sew with machines or needles so they iron, stuff, cut, or make calls for us,” said Schmierer. “Each task is needed to complete the orders… We welcome any help we are offered. Some people with young children come for a short time while others make it a point to be there each month until we finish. Anyone who has access to the base is welcome to come and help out.”
Anyone interested in helping with the efforts should contact Tammy Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or to be added to the monthly meeting notification list. All skill levels and ages are welcome!