Penny and Gloria recently met with Kim Thompson of The Ranger to chat about Stitching It Up. Here’s the text of the article. To see the original item visit Northwest Military
For many, coping with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can be devastating. Life changes dramatically, perhaps even to the point of completely unraveling all together.
Yet what if there were a safe, supportive and nurturing place to help put the pieces back together while helping others and having fun at the same time?
There is a place indeed.
The Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) in University Place has a unique answer. The organization, which has been nationally recognized since 2008 for its innovative support groups, peer mentoring programs and training, and educational programs and awareness for TBI issues, offers a crafting group called “Stitching It Up!”
However, this is no ordinary crafting group.
For members, it serves many purposes: personal support, skill building, outside peer connections, helping the community and overall lifelines.
For the BEST organization and the community at large, “Stitching It Up!” clever crafting projects not only raise funds for the organization to continue to do its good works, but also design items that help build awareness and contribute to others in need.
The latest team projects include crafting beautiful and one-of-kind survivor bracelets and key chains from colorful parachute cord; creating “Piecing It Together” tote bags, used for personal use and to house special kits that are donated to hospitals to help TBI patients; and producing stunning and comfy “Lay Down Your Troubles” quilts. Some of these quilts are made with beans and are weighted; weighted quilts have been shown to be soothing to those who have sensory issues. All goods are sold on the BEST website and at various community events.
Additionally, for TBI survivors, the tools provided in the other BEST programs, such as organizational skills, time management skills, preparation skills and more, can easily be incorporated into the crafting sessions.
The group meets at the Tacoma Coalition of Individuals with Disabilities (TACID) building near the Tacoma Community College campus in Tacoma each Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. The general public is welcome to participate as well. There is no fee to join the group. Currently there are 10 to 15 active members.
But the class is about much more than creating crafts.
According to BEST Program Director, U.S. Army veteran and TBI survivor Penny Condoll, “Stitching It Up!” provides a wealth of care, encouragement, helping hands and fun for all participants.
“In this group, we are not looking for a handout; we are strong and we can do these things with support,” she said. “We live with the challenge of TBI, and we know how we can best teach each other these new skills.
“The best parts of the group are that if you need to break down and cry because you can’t remember the next stitch, it’s OK – the rest of us are here to help and tell you how wonderful you are doing.”
In addition, “the peer connections that get made are so important,” Condoll added. “We have great, informal conversations. It’s so nice having other people with the same interests and the fact that we can talk about our day from our perspective, whether it was a good day or day that fell apart … And there’s huge laughter too,” she said with a smile.
Gloria Kraegel, BEST interim executive director and an Air Force veteran, appreciates the value that the group provides to members and their families.
“‘Stitching It Up!’ allows family members that are caregivers a fun and engaging activity or the opportunity to take a little down time if they need it. The group helps people of all different levels in an empowering way,” Kraegel said. “Team members get to be productive, feel successful, and valued … by working on these projects, they can learn, grow and develop new skills that not only build community, but are tangible skills that could even be added to a résumé.”
So, what’s next for BEST and the “Stitching It Up!” team?
Interest and participation in the organization as a whole is growing rapidly. BEST is seeking a more dedicated space for its many activities and services and could use volunteers to assist with administrative tasks. “Stitching It Up!” also welcomes craft and fabric donations; contact the organization directly for current needs.
Thanks to everyone who makes BEST the best!