Monday, September 02, 2002

Hometown Hero

Sewing mom comforts cancer patients

By Janet C. Wetzel
Enquirer contributor

        WEST CHESTER TWP - While trying to cope with the anguish of losing a daughter to cancer, Shirley Detherage found comfort in reaching out to others. But she didn't know how to make that feeling last.

Shirley Detherage makes comfort bears and turbans for cancer patients.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        Then in 2001, five years after her daughter, Jill Davis, died from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, she found the answer by deciding to form His Hands Ministry to distribute gifts to people with cancer.

        The concept started when the West Chester woman saw a magazine article about a Florida woman who makes turbans for women who lose their hair from chemotherapy.

        Mrs. Detherage couldn't get the idea out of her mind. So she asked Howard Pauley, the Senior Involvement Minister at her church, Christ Church at Mason, his opinion about a church project to make the turbans.

        He favored the plan if the need was sufficient. Calls to several hospitals and the American Cancer Society convinced her the turbans were needed and wanted.

        Now, they are being distributed through the Society's Look Good Feel Better program.

        As Mrs. Detherage recruited fellow church members for the turban work, one member, Ruth Cammerer, a volunteer at Christ Hospital, mentioned another need 1/2ndash 3/4 for “Comfort Bears” for cancer patients.

        Mrs. Detherage and Mr. Pauley agreed the church should also make the bears, which now go to cancer patients at Christ and Jewish hospitals.

        From that, His Hands Ministry was born, and work started in January 2002. An estimated 30 volunteers from the church and the community have provided more than 200 turbans and 150 bears for cancer patients.

        Mrs. Detherage, 67, spends about 15 hours a week as the coordinator. She and her husband, Don, shop for material and other supplies. She helps make the bears and turbans, and they both deliver them to the Cancer Society and hospitals.

        The bears are named, and each has a tag that reads, “Give all your worries to HIM, because he cares for you.”

        They are decked in cheerful flowers for female patients, and sports themes or animal prints for men.

        Mrs. Detherage, who has two other grown children and eight grandchildren, said while working 22 years at Ohio National Financial Services in Montgomery she had little time for volunteering. But since retiring and joining Christ Church, she's become active in many ways, including helping with the church's Evergreen ministries steering committee (a senior involvement group), and the American Cancer Society.

        While she started and coordinates His Hands Ministry, Mrs. Detherage emphasizes that the work is a group effort.

        “Without these wonderful ladies, there would be no program,” Mrs. Detherage said. “They do whatever they can to help. Some have poor eyesight or arthritic hands and can't sew, but they cut out patterns, stuff bears and anything else they can. We're doing the work of the Lord.”

        Mr. Pauley agreed the other volunteers are essential to the ministry, “But without Shirley, it wouldn't exist,” he said.

        Do you know a Hometown Hero ... someone in your community dedicated to making it a better place to live and helping others? E-mail Janet Wetzel at or fax to 513-755-4150.


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