By Sarah Peachey, Fort Polk Guardian staff writerApril 25, 2011
FORT POLK, La. - Support for troops serving overseas comes in different forms. Some supporters choose to send care packages or tie a yellow ribbon around a tree. Janice Lewis, a volunteer sewing teacher at the Army Community Service Family Readiness Center, shows her support by creating heart pillows for spouses to send to deployed loved ones.
One of five daughters, Lewis' mother taught the girls how to sew when they were young. Lewis also sews throw pillows for the Leesville Hospice to help provide comfort to patients. "People may not care how much you know, but they like to know how much you care," said Lewis. She expanded her hobby to include spouses of deployed Soldiers.
Lewis, the wife of a retired Soldier, makes all the pillows herself using donated or purchased fabrics. She tries to pick fabrics that can be a reminder of a favorite hobby the Soldier has at home, she said. Her fabrics include camouflage, fish, dogs, dolphins and more.
While sewing the pillows may seem like a lot of work, Lewis doesn't see it that way. "This is nothing compared to what Soldiers go through. I can't imagine what it's like to be away from family, fight a war and see what they see," she said. "This is my way to thank them for their service."
Rhonda Fulton-Bolger, the Fort Polk Deployment Mobilization and Training coordinator, helps spread the word about Lewis' work.
"I give the information to the Family Readiness Support Assistant who passes it on to Family Readiness Group leaders. Those interested respond and it moves back up the chain and I give it to Janice," said Fulton-Bolger. Lewis then makes the pillows in her spare time. When completed, she gives the pillows to Fulton-Bolger who delivers them to the FRG leaders.
"Some female spouses spray the pillow with their perfume before sending it over. It's a great reminder of home," said Fulton-Bolger. The most recent batch was sent to Soldiers of the 52nd Translator/Interpreter Company, 162nd Infantry Battalion.
"I called Janice in the afternoon for 24 pillows for these Soldiers. By 10 a.m. the next day, she had them finished and ready to send," said Fulton-Bolger.
On each of the pillows, Lewis writes the month she makes them and always the seventh day to represent the seven people in her family, Lewis said. She also includes a biblical verse, Proverbs 3:3-6. The verse discusses allowing faith and love to always stay with you and guide you.
Outside of the heart pillows, Lewis spends her time sewing clothes for children. Her church, the Church of Christ, in Deridder, La., sponsors Sunny Glen Children's Home, which provides residential care services to children. The children's home, in San Benito, Texas, sends a list of items they need to the church and the church provides the tools and materials to Lewis.
"God doesn't give us more than we can bear. He has provided me with the funding and the skills to do this, so I do it," said Lewis. She volunteers her sewing skills at the FRC by hosting a class.
Some students have a background in sewing, but want to learn additional skills; others come to learn to hem pants or make curtains. "It depends on the person as far as who comes in," she said.
Lewis hopes to expand on the recipients of her pillows. "I want to honor other brave people like firefighters - most of them are volunteers. I'm looking for that fabric now," she said.