Making a Difference: Woman makes toys for children in hospital
CLEARFIELD - A woman in Clearfield County has taken what started as a fun activity and turned it into a career. And just when she thought she would simply keep her love of sewing as a hobby, another door opened for her.
For Nina Johnson, sewing has been a part of her life since she was 9 years old.
"Made my first sleeveless blouse," said Johnson, who makes handmade toys for children.
Nina made the creative hobby into a career in 1972 when she went college and later became an instructor for the textile program at what is now the Clearfield County Career and Technology Center.
"First day they wrote their name with a sewing machine I had them hooked," said Johnson.
For 20 years, she taught at the school before she retired. It wasn't until a trip to Penn Highlands Clearfield Hospital to visit a friend in '93 when it was suggested she volunteer doing what she does best.
Through the Comfort Item Project, Nina started making handmade toys for children.
"Hospitals and needles and kids don't go together. So when we deliver toys we deliver to six different spots," said Chip Lawhead, hospital volunteer.
Lawhead and Dianna McMasters are volunteers at the hospital and every week they deliver the many toys Nina has created and sewn.
"You know she comes in with all these different toys. And all the different fabrics and I get excited looking at them," said McMasters, hospital volunteer.
According to Nina and the volunteers, it's really amazing how something as simple as a handmade toy cat or dog can bring such comfort to a child. So they hope when they leave the hospital, those children will be able to bring that comfort home.
"Being so happy and hugging the stuffed animal which ever one it might be," said Bob Homer, hospital volunteer.
And the hard work in making these toys is not done alone. Deb Pulcinello helps cut and stuff the animals before Nina sews them.
Since '94, Nina has made over 21,000 toys. And that doesn't include the surgical pillows or other various items she's made to help the hospital.
And even at 88, Nina has no plans on easing up on the pedal anytime soon.