Some Local volunteers are on cuddle duty.
Since 2003, volunteers with Lodi's Fairmont Seventh Day-Adventist church have donated over 3,000 stuffed animals and blankets to underprivileged children around the world, through the Cuddle-Up program.
Cuddle-up was created by parishioner Alice Hoffman, who wanted to let children in the foster care system know they were cared for and loved, by providing them with a stuffed animal and blanket.
Hoffman was inspired by her daughter, who works as a social worker, to start the program, according to the Cuddle-Up Director Kathy Parsons.
Parsons became involved with the project after Hoffman recruited her.
“She knew I could sew, which is why she wanted me to work with her on this. After I finished homeschooling my children I took it on full time,” Parsons said.
Parsons has carried the torch for the project after Hoffman’s passing in 2006.
Whether she was making 10 blankets and stuffed animals or 100, she has not stopped putting together the cuddle bundles. From 2003 to 2015 Parsons continued to donate the bundles to the Mary Graham Children’s Shelter in French Camp.
“It’s about helping the kids. I know it means a whole lot to them to receive these bundles. Many of these kids have never had their own toys. It’s something we take for granted,” Parsons said.
Since leading the program, Parsons has had the privilege of working with volunteers in the parish that are passionate about making a difference in the lives of children.
Parsons said that while the numbers of volunteers have fluctuated in the past, the group continues to gain momentum as they tale on new projects.
“This past year we made 600 bundles,” volunteer Barbara Miller said.
Last year the group donated 200 bundles to the Salvation Army, 160 to the Tubbs and Paradise fire victims as well as 240 to orphanages in Vietnam and Africa.
Parsons said there are stuffed animals that are donated (for the bundles), but most are purchased from Lodi Junction.
“All the toys are washed (thoroughly) before they are bundled up,” Parsons said.
Funds to purchase stuffed animals and fleece material are raised through a treasure sale — similar to a garage sale — that the group hosts twice a year.
“We are hoping to hold our next treasure sale in September,” Parsons said.
Through the support of their congregation, the volunteers are able to support their cuddle bundles.
“We accept (stuffed animals and material) donations, we just request that people contact us first to ensure we receive the donation,” Parsons said.
The group often works on creating the bundles on Mondays from 1 to 3 p.m. For information about the Cuddle-up program contact Kathy Parsons at 209-334-1844.