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Making prayer shawls

Press Photo by Linda Sailer Sandy Strommen finishes crocheting a prayer shawl Thursday in her home. It will be given to a client enrolled in Heartland Hospice.

Prayer shawls made by volunteers are helping Heartland Hospice clients stay warm.

"I say a little prayer for the patient while I'm making the prayer shawls," volunteer Sandy Strommen said. "I ask God to keep them warm and look over them."

Heartland Hospice, sponsored by Catholic Health Initiatives, provides end-of-life care.

Strommen recently joined the volunteers who crochet and knit shawls. Since then, she's recruited her personal circle of volunteers including Shelley Hansen, Broadus, Mont., Wilma Fitterer, Dickinson and Marjean Schultz, New England.

Strommen made two shawls since joining in October and plans to make others. She estimates each one takes 20 to 25 hours to complete -- all done in her spare time.

"I make them a little bigger to make sure they cover," she said.

Hospice care is provided when a physician certifies a terminal diagnosis, Heartland Hospice Director Amy Kreidt said.

"We have hospice patients in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and at home," she said.

Hospice works with a team of providers including spiritual care, nursing care, social workers, a dietitian, pharmacy, a medical director and volunteers.

"Our group meets weekly for patient reviews," she said. "Families may attend the meetings if they choose. It's really team-oriented."

Hospice also provides medical equipment that a patient may need at home.

"We're the only hospice provider in this area of the state," Kreidt said. "The nearest hospices are at Hazen, Bismarck and Williston."

Volunteer coordinator Jil Baird works with 32 volunteers who support families of the client.

"They may just sit and listen or offer a prayer," she said. "They do not provide any care to the patient."

The other level of volunteers are the women who knit or crochet the prayer shawls.

"We wrap the shawls around their shoulders or across their legs," Baird said.

Baird joined the hospice team 1 1/2 years ago. Her family benefited from services during the illness of her father and for 13 months following his death.

"I didn't realize how important the 13 months was until the anniversary of his death," Baird said. "His anniversary was the hardest day to make it through."

Kreidt joined the team two years ago.

"Everyone works together to give family and the patient what they need," she said. "We have quite a few patients in nursing homes. We also provide support for the nursing home staff -- they really get attached to the residents."

Hospice relies on fundraisers to help cover expenses.

A breakfast will be served from 8 a.m. to noon today at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, 240 Broadway. The menu includes sausage, eggs, hash browns and homemade rolls.

The staff works to increase awareness of hospice services in southwestern North Dakota, Kreidt said.

For more information, visit the website, and click on the home health and hospice link.