WADSWORTH, Ohio – You could call it Santa’s workshop of Northeast Ohio.
Inside an old hardware store on College Street, dozens of volunteers celebrate the magic of gift-giving.
“We’re in here a couple days a week, real busy,” said Jan Householder, eager to take on the day.
Householder is the founder of The Giving Doll, a ministry that sends handmade dolls to sick children and others facing tough times.
“It just means so much for a child to get this, to have something to hold on to and to hug at times when maybe even when they’re by themselves and they need some special comfort,” she said. “And that’s our whole program is just to give special comfort to kids.”
Founded in March 2006, The Giving Doll has made thousands of dolls, and all of them are crafted by volunteers like Helen Louis of Akron.
“I do the bling. I put the ribbons in the hair, on their neck and their feet,” said Louis. But we have people who embroider, sew the dresses, sew the bodies, make the hair and a lot more.”
A couple days a week, volunteers meet at the house, hoping their work will eventually bring a smile to a child’s face.
“It’s a blessing,” Louis said, “to know that you can do that much in that small of a way, that’s wonderful.
In wake of the recent tragedy in Newtown, Conn., the group wanted to do something special for the victims’ families.
”We made 65 dolls,” Householder said. “We sent them to Newtown and they’re now being sent to the siblings.”
There were 26 victims who died in the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Now, the ministry is sending dolls to every Ronald McDonald House in the country – 12 girls and 8 boys – in honor of the 20 children killed.
“It’s truly a terrible thing that happened,” said volunteer Roxanne Morehead. “It’s nice that we can give something to them to help ease their pain.”
Easing the pain of families, Household said the organization started because of one child: Katherine McVey, a terminally ill 10-year-old from Stow.
About seven years ago, Katherine asked Jan to sew 12 dolls for other children at the hospital.
“When she took them to St. Judes, she came back, she asked ‘Can you make a few more?” Householder said.
Householder came through on that promise. Now, those dolls have reached nearly 14,000 children in 35 countries. The Giving Doll has 12 chapters across the United States.
It’s all in memory of one little angel, Householder said, with reaching so many more today.
“We still think her spirit is with us because of the opportunities that have come,” she said. “No way did we think that it would be possible, to touch this many kids and this many volunteers. It’s a just a wonderful ministry and a wonderful mission that we’re doing.”
The Giving Doll has multiple chapters throughout Northeast Ohio. It also accepts donations of materials used to make the dolls.
For more information, go to TheGivingDoll.com.