Recent visitors of Roper Hospice Cottage may have noticed little stitched hearts placed on some of the patients' room doors. All of those hearts were donated, designed and paid for by a combination of Charleston residents and people across the country.
"Everyone needs a project; this one helps people feel better," said Madonna Lewis, owner of the Cabbage Row Needlepoint Shoppe in Charleston.
Lewis has owned the store for the past seven years, and before that, has had over 40 years of experience with needlepoint. The shop has been here since the 1970s, she said. After retiring from a job in finance in Ohio, she moved to Charleston and purchased Cabbage Row on Broad Street.
Since January, Lewis has been organizing the Hearts for Hospice project. It's a special program where needlepoint stitchers come together and create the needlepoint hearts for hospice patients and their families.
They have given out 70 hearts and have at least 35 set aside to donate later. The majority of the participants have been Lewis' customers.
Lewis, who has done around eight hearts herself, said her goal now is to see the program grow. The Charleston hospice told her they see around 58 patients a month.
"I'd like to have one for everyone at hospice forever," she said.
She got the idea to start the project earlier this year from some friends from Kansas City. She said they told her about a project of their own where they were working with a local hospice facility.
So she decided to bring one to Charleston. She gives participants a blank canvas with a heart outlined. From there, they will stitch whatever design they want.
When done, they send the finished design back to Lewis along with $40. The money is used to pay for the completion of the heart. This is where the heart is removed from the canvas and becomes the 3D design that's placed on a patient's door.
When the patient passes away, the family can then take the heart home with them.
"You're doing something for a family going through a really painful time," said Kate Fortney, a part-time employee at Cabbage Row whose mother went through hospice. "That's why I wanted to do it."
In addition to local customers and employees, Fortney and her colleague Virginia Donehue said that people as far away as Hawaii have contributed to the project.
"I think it's the knowledge of where (the heart) will eventually find a home," Donehue said.
And while majority of the contributors have been Charleston based, Lewis is still hoping to attract more participants. Those experienced with needlepoint, she said, can use their extra fabric to stitch the hearts.
She and her colleagues estimate that it takes around 12 to 15 hours to finish the stitching of the heart.
"I can do one usually in three evenings," Donehue said.
For Lewis, she said she can usually get through one in a weekend. It also takes four to six weeks to get the hearts back during the finishing. So they are hoping to attract more participants to create more hearts.
But in general, Lewis said she is just happy to be doing something for hospice patients. The last time she went to the hospice, she went with 15 hearts. And they were thrilled, she said.
"That's all we need to hear, that someone loved our hearts," Lewis said.