- Associated Press - Sunday, May 1, 2016

MIDLAND, Mich. (AP) - Remember those teddy bears when you were young? How soft and cuddly they were? And how when hugged, they brought a warm feeling, peace and security?

Local resident Jacqueline K. Lamont is providing that same feeling for children who might need some encouragement as they deal with health issues, or disruptive situations, the Midland Daily News (https://bit.ly/1qLQi5T ) reported.

“There are children that need a little boost,” she said. “I don’t need to know who they are. I prefer to be humble, but it’s the feedback that gives you that inspiration to create more bears and give that child a smile on their face and some happiness.”

That boost has motivated Lamont to create over 500 bears to assist children since her retirement from Dow Corning in 2001.

Retirement meant that Lamont could spend six months in St. Petersburg, Florida, to be closer to her sister. While in Florida, she became involved in a sewing group where Lamont learned how to sew the bears from a former home economics teacher.

For the past couple of years, she has no longer made the annual trek to Florida, which means that the sewing room in her basement has become home to fabric and yarn from two residences. The room has a sewing machine at one end. But, it’s the walls along each side that amaze visitors. The left hand wall contains 4-foot-high wire shelving filled with fabric, folded neatly and sorted by color. On the opposite wall resides shelving full of different colored yarn. Between the two walls is a table with a couple of dozen bears below waiting for their finishing touches.

Each bear contains 11 pieces and Lamont estimates that it takes about six hours to complete one.

“I audition each bear,” Lamont said, smiling. “Do I want pink with this? Or gray? Do I want stripes? Or checks? That is the first step.”

After pinning the pieces, she sews each of them together while leaving a slot in the back for the stuffing. The bears then take their first trip, upstairs to Lamont’s living room where she begins stuffing each bear while watching TV. Next to her chair is a pile of bears taking a break while the stuffing settles. Then it’s some more stuffing and a trip back downstairs for the final sewing and finishing touches.

“Sometimes, I miss a part and they need a little bit of surgery and healing,” Lamont said, chuckling.

Just as her bears may need healing, so do children. That’s exactly why Lamont creates the bears, to help children along the process to recovery.

“I kind of decided that this had meaning for me. If a child was ill or sick, if a bear brought that child some happiness or whatever, I could do that,” she said.

Lamont’s bears have brought comfort to children at MidMichigan Medical Center-Midland, Shelterhouse, children who encounter law enforcement and the St. Joseph Health System in Tawas.

“When a child receives a stuffed animal after a traumatic event, it’s something to hold on and means the world to them. I’ve seen a little boy carrying a stuffed animal wherever he goes,” said Shelterhouse Executive Director Janine Ouderkirk. “They may not be able to bring their toys with them. So a stuffed animal is something tangible that is theirs.”

A major source of Lamont’s fabric has been the Ben Franklin store in East Tawas.

“They are having another sale at the end of April so I’ll have to go back,” laughed Lamont. “Do I need any? No? But, it’s the thought that I might miss something. Some of the fabric has been given to me. Some I’ve purchased. Some I’ve gotten at yard sales or thrift stores.”

The bears come in two sizes: 17 inches and 20 inches. But, for those special people, the bears may be a little larger.

“I’ve made up to a 32-inch, but that is just for grandchildren,” she said.

Lamont has expanded her creations to baby afghans, which are given to new mothers.

“When a new mom loses a child, they wrap the baby in the afghan to give to the mom to say ‘goodbye,’ and then she keeps the afghan,” Lamont said.

Some bears are made as a remembrance of a relative who has passed away. People who have lost a parent or grandparent will bring her a piece of the loved one’s clothing and she will create a bear.

“One of the girls I used to work with had lost her father and they had a sweatshirt with an insignia on it. I built the bear around that. You are only limited by my creativity. It’s endless,” Lamont said.

At 71, Lamont is definitely not done using her endless amount of creativity to provide cheer for others.


Information from: Midland Daily News, https://www.ourmidland.com

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