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Stitching together: Hospital volunteer Betty Whiteley delivers stockings for babies born on 12 days of Christmas

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During most of the month of December at the American Fork Hospital, parents receive their newborns in Christmas stocking made by Betty Whiteley and other volunteers. Betty has been making about 40 stockings every year for the past 10 years. (Photo by Dave Blackhurst/UV Mag)

During most of the month of December at the American Fork Hospital, parents receive their newborns in Christmas stocking made by Betty Whiteley and other volunteers. Betty has been making about 40 stockings every year for the past 10 years. (Photo by Dave Blackhurst/UV Mag)

When Pleasant Grove’s Betty Whiteley became a widow in her 60s, a neighbor who had gone through the same thing gave her some advice.

“She said I could stay in the house and be sad or I can get on with my life and serve others,” Betty says.

So, she decided to serve others as part of the team of volunteers at American Fork Hospital. Each of Intermountain’s area hospitals organizes volunteer opportunities to support health and wellness through a variety of programs.

One of Betty’s favorite ways to serve is making Christmas stocking for babies born during the “12 Days of Christmas” in December. Babies born on Dec. 13-25 at American Fork Hospital — as well as Intermountain’s other two area hospitals, Orem Community and Utah Valley Hospital — are placed in a Christmas stocking and delivered to mom.

“I don’t ever get to see the babies in the stockings, but the nurses tell us the parents get a kick out of it. It’s a good reminder to them that they got a nice little Christmas gift.”

—Betty Whiteley, volunteer

“It’s a little thing, but parents say they really like having their children delivered to them in stockings,” says Betty, now 85.

Betty is on a committee of volunteers charged with supplying 200 stockings to the American Fork Hospital. Her share is about 40 and each is sewn with love in the Pleasant Grove home she’s lived in since 1951.

The stockings started out just red and white, with a ribbon running across the top. However, now Betty makes stockings in a variety of patterns, designs and colors. The Christmas socks include one simple ribbon bow in the corner, which makes the ribbon go further without sacrificing quality.

“I don’t ever get to see the babies in the stockings, but the nurses tell us the parents get a kick out of it,” she says. “It’s a good reminder to them that they got a nice little Christmas gift.”

Betty learned the basics in a sewing class at Pleasant Grove High School, and her needle-and-thread skills grew as she sewed clothes and dresses for her family.

“I used to sew a lot for my daughter and granddaughters, but now I stick to simple things like Christmas stockings,” she says.

In addition to sewing stockings, the volunteer force at American Fork Hospital runs the gift shop, makes and sells quilts, and raises money in other ways to fund projects at the hospital. Recently, the volunteers offered a significant donation toward American Fork Hospital’s purchase of a new DEXA scanner that tests bone density.

One of Betty Whiteley’s 22 great-grandchildren was born at Utah Valley Hospital on Dec. 9, just missing out on being delivered to his mother in a stocking on the “12 Days of Christmas.” When Betty came to visit the child, she made sure he was properly outfitted with a stocking made in her own sewing room.

One of Betty Whiteley’s 22 great-grandchildren was born at Utah Valley Hospital on Dec. 9, just missing out on being delivered to his mother in a stocking on the “12 Days of Christmas.” When Betty came to visit the child, she made sure he was properly outfitted with a stocking made in her own sewing room.

“We enjoy helping in any way we can,” Betty says. “Most of us have been volunteering for decades, and we love what we do.”

Volunteers typically commit to one four-hour shift per week in the gift shop and will also serve on various committees, which may include service outside of their regular once-a-week commitment. But every hour brings Betty satisfaction and enriches her life.

The volunteers are an important part of the overall environment at Intermountain. Volunteers are vetted through an application process. They receive solid training and are required to participate in hospital employee programs including immunizations.

“The volunteers are committed and they can count on us,” Betty says. “This creates a better environment to volunteer than some other places that expect less. We’re always looking for more volunteers, and it’s a great way to make friends and give back.”

With the wide variety of service opportunities and committees, the volunteer coordinators find the right fit for each do-gooder.

How to get involved

Intermountain Healthcare has volunteers at each of its three local hospitals — American Fork, Orem Community and Utah Valley — and volunteer opportunities are posted on the organization’s website under “Intermountain Careers.”

Candidates go through an application process and are screened to ensure volunteers commit to Intermountain’s environment and professional conduct.

This is one of four stories featured in “The Heart of the Holidays” section of Utah Valley Magazine.

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