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Volunteer’s small creations bring big smiles to patients’ faces

Published in Media Releases, Volunteer Services

Twice a month the patients receiving care at CentraCare - Rice Memorial Hospital are treated to an added treasure on their meal trays – a paper creation made with love by a special volunteer.

This week the patients who spend Thanksgiving at Rice Hospital will be surprised with a cute turkey creation that includes intricate paper quilling, or curled strips of red, orange, and yellow paper, representing the bird's feathers.

These turkeys and other crafting creations, have all been made and donated by the volunteer efforts of a Willmar stay-at-home mom, Sarah Miller.

At the onset of the pandemic Miller was looking for opportunities to volunteer from home and came across the prospect to make paper crafts for a hospital in the metro area. It wasn't until Miller and her toddler had to pay a personal visit to the Emergency Room at Rice Memorial Hospital that she thought these crafts might be equally appreciated for patients in her hometown of Willmar.

"That's when I reached out to Carris Health and I was put in touch with Deb Van Buren, the Volunteer Services Manager," recalls Miller. Together they arranged a meeting where Miller brought several design concepts to share. Following her volunteer orientation, Miller is now an active member of the Carris Health volunteer program and creates tray favors that bring joy, smiles and much appreciation from the patients at Rice Hospital.

"These cheer card creations just make their day," notes Nutrition Supervisor, Ken Nelson. "Not only do the patients enjoy receiving these homemade crafts, but so do our staff as they anticipate what the next creation will be. We see how appreciative patients are of this added treat on their meal trays."

Miller's creations to date have included cheer cards, floral bouquets (for 9/11), fall pumpkins, watermelons, 4th of July notes, Halloween spiders in a web, animal joke cards, and most recently, turkeys and snowmen.

"I am amazed at the talent and creativity that Miller puts into each and every piece she designs," Van Buren notes. "Each creation takes lots of time as she basically deconstructs paper and puts it back together in a beautiful, unique way! She pours hours of love into every design." Each project takes more than 10 hours to complete from start to finish.

Miller has a heart for service and states, "I want to help and serve in a way that fits my lifestyle. It's been so much fun to create things. I have time when my son is sleeping and playing, allowing me to play and produce fun designs. Now as a volunteer, I can share my fun with others!"

"Sarah has taught me that volunteering doesn't have to happen within the four walls of the hospital," Van Buren confesses. "There are things people can do in their own homes that can benefit the patient experience here at CentraCare - Rice Memorial Hospital."

Nelson and Nutrition Services Supervisor, Randy Hanson, were happy to receive her latest delivery of paper turkeys for Thanksgiving, along with her newest creation - snowmen. The snowmen are clothespins that have been painted white and include a removable yarn stocking cap and fun scarf. These might be a fun tray favor to save for the next snow day. Miller is currently working on a holiday creation to add to the trays during the week of Christmas.

Miller adds, "It is my desire to help and serve. This volunteer project fits my lifestyle. It has been such a blessing to give back to the hospital that is here to support me and my family."