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Women's group offers Monongahela Valley patients 'Gift of Warmth'

| Saturday, March 1, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
The Victory Hill Civic and Social Center’s Ladies Auxiliary donated 30 handmade fleece scarves for cancer patients at Monongahela Valley Hospital’s Charles L. and Rose Sweeney Melenyzer Pavilion and Regional Cancer Center. The ladies traditionally make either hats or scarves each year for MVH patients to help provide them with some comfort during the cold winter months. Pictured are (from left) Auxiliary President Connie Russell of Monongahela and MVH’s Director of Fund Development Melissa Marion of New Brighton. Russell added that cancer has impacted each of the auxiliary members’ families, so the scarf project is very personal to each of them.

To keep cancer patients warm this winter, a Monongahela-area group of women donated 32 handmade fleece scarves to Monongahela Valley Hospital.

Almost all of the scarves, some with a plaid design and others with a diamond-shape print, have already been distributed to patients at Monongahela Valley Hospital's Charles L. and Rose Sweeney Melenyzer Pavilion and Regional Cancer Center.

Patients especially appreciated the gift in this year's frigid winter temperatures, said Debbie Burkhardt, director of radiation oncology, who passed out the scarves along with her team of therapists.

“(The) scarves are very colorful, and it kind of brightens their day,” she said. “They have loved it. They just are amazed that someone's thinking about them.”

The Victory Hill Civic and Social Center's Ladies Auxiliary, a group of about a dozen women, worked together to make the scarves “as fast as we can and as many as we can,” said group President Connie Russell of Monongahela.

Making scarves or hats for the hospital's patients, called “The Gift of Warmth,” has been a winter tradition for the organization. Next year, they'll try to make 50 scarves, she said.

The donation is personal to many members of the group whose family members have battled cancer, Russell said.

“It's such a lift of a person's spirit,” she said. “To put a smile on their face. ... It was not only to keep them warm physically but it was a gift of warmth from our heart.”

Burkhardt knows the donation's importance to the women who made the scarves.

“It's just a mission of love for them,” she said.

The Victory Hill Civic and Social Center's Ladies Auxiliary strives to raise funds with events including bake sales and car cruises. Members also volunteer in the community, for example, donating clothes to the hospital and funds to the Monongahela Area Library. The association was established in the early 1970s.

When the group contacted Mon Valley hospital about the scarf donation, “we were delighted,” said Melissa Marion, the hospital's director of fund development.

Because the hospital has received so many donations recently, staff created a page on the hospital's website titled “spotlight on giving” to feature the donations, Marion said. “We've started to archive and highlight our stories,” she said. “It's community members who have gotten together for a purpose. ... It's one more way that we can showcase and thank our donors.”

Rossilynne Skena Culgan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or