Handmade Pillows: Bringing Family Together

Published: 7/16/2017

We would like to share a story about a family who made it their mission to bring love and warmth to children entering foster care. Beverly Valasek and the Hein Family made special pillows last November and donated them to the Duffels 4 Dignity program at PromiseShip. The children who received the pillows absolutely loved them! So we reached out to Bev to see if her family would be open to donating more. They immediately jumped on board!

Bev and nine of her siblings originally made these pillows in memory of their mother. Bev talked to her employer, the Douglas County Housing Authority, who also donated books, coloring books, crayons, personal hygiene items, stuffed animals, and toys…anything a child might want or need.

They plan to continue making the pillows so that every child entering foster care gets a pillow this year.

A huge thanks goes out to the Hein family for their big hearts and for continuing to make the pillows so that every child will receive one! Special thanks to the Douglas County Housing Authority for going above and beyond to join Bev in donating!

Here is Bev’s story as she shared it with us:

I am a member of the Hein family. Our mother and father had sixteen children, ten girls and six boys. We have eight living sisters and every year the sisters get together in October to catch up and spend some quality time together. Last October we decided to do a community project in honor of our mother.

My sister, Jeanette, had made some pillows that had pockets in them. We thought they were very cute. I had seen the video “Removed” when I attended a PromiseShip event. I was so touched by this video that gives us the opportunity to see–through a child’s eyes–what it feels like to be removed from your home and placed into foster care. Our family decided to make these pillows and donate them to children going into foster homes. We wanted each pillow to have a book and a flashlight. We wanted the flashlights because of the fear the children must feel, especially at night.

So all eight of my sisters and one brother went to Conrad, Iowa, for three days to spend time together and make pillows. Conrad is a small town that has a quilt store called Hen & Chicks. Above the store they have a wonderful place called The Nest where large groups can stay and work on projects like this. It was like being in a college dorm–so much fun! That weekend we made close to 100 pillows for the children. I took half of the pillows back to Nebraska and contacted someone I knew at PromiseShip. She said she was sure they could use the pillows.

Several months later I was contacted by PromiseShip. They asked how the pillows came about and was there a way to get more? I contacted my family and they brought more pillows that had been completed. My sister, Jeanette, sewed 65 and brought them from Tennessee. PromiseShip had mentioned that they stuffed the pillows with coloring books, crayons, snacks, and all kinds of things. [They told us] the children were thrilled with the pillows.

I reached out to the staff and board members of Douglas County Housing Authority where I work to see if they would be willing to donate items, or money to purchase items, to put in the pillows. Many people went out and shopped for the children and many gave money. Julie, an employee at Douglas County Housing Authority, reached out to Hy-Vee on 108th and Fort Streets and to Wal-Mart on north 99th Street and they both donated. When we were done, we had collected so many wonderful things for children and teenagers [in foster care].

The generosity and love of all of the people involved in this project was incredible. Every one of us goes through difficult times in our lives and we can all remember when someone showed us a kindness or reached out to us when we needed it most. We found one small way to give back to deserving children and let them know that people think about them and care.