Volunteers with the Lincoln County Senior Center celebrated an early end to their seasonal project this year, making specialized aprons for local residents suffering from severe memory-loss.
The facility held a special reception Friday morning for those who helped sew, sort, patch and design the aprons.
The project commenced in January, with 25 to 30 volunteers participating in three different workshops over the course of the project, according to Senior Center Director Marti Hovis.
While a fourth work session was originally scheduled for this month, it was happily cancelled after volunteers and Senior Center officials alike learned they had accomplished their goal sooner than anticipated, making a total of 98 aprons.
Becky Putnam, program and services coordinator for the organization, had a vision many years ago to make the items, known as “fidget aprons,” but it wasn’t until this year that she witnessed the fulfillment of her dream.
“This has been on my bucket list for a long time,” she said. “I see the need in the community when helping with families.”
Putnam also heads the facility’s Family Caregiver Support Group, where she interacts frequently with family members providing for loved ones with either dementia or Alzheimer’s.
The aprons gained their name from the simple purpose for which they were designed — to let people “fidget” with them.
Each one is comprised of toys and gadgets such as slinkys, key chains, stuffed animals, beads, coins and other trinkets, that have been tied with ribbon either directly onto the apron or to fabrics made of varying textures.
All project materials were donated by the community, Hovis said.
By fidgeting with the aprons, a person stimulates both the tactile and auditory senses, occupying their time and providing their caretakers with a period of relaxation during the day.
Volunteers poured in from Lincoln County and the surrounding region, from Senior Center members to out-of-county residents including mother-daughter duo Stephanie and Michaela Sheffield, of Crowders Mountain.
“I like volunteering,” Michaela, 12, said. “I’m a people person, and I think (the project is) a really good thing.”
The two also work with senior events in Gaston County.
Jamie Vernon, also an apron workshop volunteer, gained additional aid from the youth and women’s groups at her church, Laboratory United Methodist, where members helped sort and string together wooden bead pieces.
After getting involved in the project, she instantly determined who in her life should receive an apron — 72-year-old war veteran Larry Turner.
“I first thought of him,” Vernon said.
The Lincoln County resident, who stands 6-foot-5, suffers from dementia and now resides in a veteran’s home in Black Mountain.
Because of Turner’s tall stature, Vernon and her mother worked to fashion a one-of-kind, longer apron for him.
They also added keys to it since he frequently walks around playing with a set, keeping his hands occupied, Vernon said.
While several elderly adults with severe memory-loss live in local nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, Putnam wanted the aprons to be given to individuals still residing at home.
And with the project’s success, she already has plans to carry out additional apron workshops at the start of next year.
“This is just a wonderful project for our community,” Hovis said. “We’ve never had anything like it before.”
Any local resident or caretaker who would like an apron or more information on the project can call the Senior Center at (704) 732-9053 or stop by the facility, located at 514 South Academy Street in Lincolnton.