GREENFIELD — The blankets come at that moment when there is so little anyone can offer.
Chemotherapy — perhaps radiation or other treatment — lies ahead for a patient who is filled with fear. And then comes that warm stretch of cloth, a reminder that someone cares.
For Nikki Ward, it was fleece and decorated with Colts insignias.
After Ward was diagnosed with breast cancer, she began treatment at Hancock Regional Hospital’s Sue Ann Wortman Cancer Center, arriving around 9 a.m. and remaining past 2. Those infusions left her cold — virtually numb in her hands.
On one such visit, Kay Sharp was dropping off blankets from the Hands of Love group at Amity United Methodist Church. A nurse offered one to Ward, who chose an Indianapolis Colts fleece blanket that warmed not only her body but also her heart.
She looked at the crocheted edges of the blanket and knew someone had taken their time, had thought of the patient in need of comfort who would one day clutch it.
“That touched my heart,” she said.
Ward’s thank-you card is one among a pile kept by the Amity group, which has been making blankets for about two years, ever since church member Sarah Hancock first put out the call for crocheters at the church, and a dozen women showed up.
Linda Holliday, clinical manager at the Sue Ann Wortman Cancer Center, said the center is grateful to groups that think of cancer patients, from youth organizations who bring goody bags with lotion and crosswords to church groups who supply blankets with a handmade touch.
Even though the hospital has its own supply of blankets available in warmers, patients also enjoy being given one from a group such as Hands of Love, she said. That personal touch makes a sterile environment a bit more inviting.
“It just makes them feel more at home,” Holliday said. “They bring them back and forth all the time.”
The Amity ministry’s first handmade blanket was given to a cancer patient — Sharp’s husband, Bob, diagnosed with Stage 2 colorectal cancer in 2014 and Stage 4 liver cancer in 2015. His NASCAR blanket has made many a trip to treatment and back.
Today, Sharp, too carries a blanket — one in progress — when she accompanies her husband. She has found the work and the group a comfort during her husband’s cancer journey, through times of worry and through the recent encouraging news that a CT scan showed everything stable.
“There’s healing power in these blankets — I swear by it,” she said.
The group’s members find comfort not only in their mission but also in visiting with one another to make it all happen.
Visit the church on a Wednesday morning, and the conversation and laughter can be heard down the hall, before one steps into the church library, where the women are gathered on couches and chairs.
From her chair, Nancy Luke tells of taking a blanket to a friend in Ingalls the day before. She prayed with him and his wife before leaving.
“He had tears in his eyes,” Luke said. “We are the ones who receive such a blessing.”
Luke received a blanket herself when she found out she had an autoimmune disease. It was blue with a red heart on it. With it over her, “I felt God’s healing power,” she said.
The crocheters and knitters do pray for blessing and healing for the people who receive the blankets. When they have a group of blankets finished, washed then adorned with a Hands of Love tag, they gather around the stack as Amity’s pastor, the Rev. Ford Bond, blesses them.
“It’s our hope that, through blessing them, it works miracles,” said Kim Hall, the president of the group.
Though the mission started and still meets at Amity, it’s brought in women from other churches who have begun to take part.
“One thing we share in common is our love of the Lord and a desire to serve the community,” Hall said.
She and most other women in the room have laps that are covered in colorful fleece as they work. Some cut fleece and use a tool to punch holes around the perimeter of the fabric. For most, their needles dive and bob as they add crocheted edges, sometimes as many as three rows in different colors, to each blanket.
Seeing that type of detail added to her Colts blanket, “I figured they made it with love,” Ward said.
That’s been a comfort to her, not only through her own bout with breast cancer but also during husband David’s battles with prostate and liver cancers, during which he received a blanket, too.
David Ward died in July. On family trips without him, Nikki Ward sometimes packs her Colts blanket.
“It helps. It helps to know somebody cares.”
The Hands of Love group has handed out more than 450 adult blankets since the ministry began two years ago at Amity United Methodist Church south of Mt. Comfort. Many are given away at cancer centers at Hancock Regional Hospital and Community Hospital. Others have gone to ALS patients, those who’ve suffered a stroke, people receiving dialysis, veterans, food banks, and people without visitors in nursing homes. The group has also given 125 baby blankets, many of them for a baby shower at the women’s prison.
Hands of Love got started with a grant from the church and has an annual craft fair to raise money for fleece and yarn, stretching those dollars by waiting for sales and using coupons.
This year’s craft fair is set for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 11 at the church, 6042 W. County Road 100N, Greenfield. Among the items for sale will be local honey, as well as honey soap and lotion; fishing lures; and the work of a wood cutter.