Thirteen years ago Dolly Courville’s family received a packet of clothing and baby items for her tiny twin grandchildren who were born premature and placed in the Neo Natal Intensive Care unit at Woman’s Hospital in Baton Rouge.

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Jo Anne Oddo, Claire Williams, Ollie Brown, Felicia Still, Betty Labarre and Joyce Bennett tie ribbons around socks that will become Lovie Dolls for the babies in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit at Woman’s Hospital.

One of the twins passed away. The other stayed in intensive care for four months, and is now a thriving 13-year-old. But Dolly never forgot how much that package given to her by the Threads of Love ministry meant to her and her family.

“When I found out my church parish of Immaculate Conception had a Threads of Love chapter, I joined. We appreciated it so much, and now I can give back,” she said.

Courville is one of about 22 women in the Denham Springs church who meet once a month to prepare as many as 60 packages for babies in the NIC Unit.

Each packet contains a tiny bonnet, a shirt about the size of an adult hand, crocheted booties, a lovie doll and a prayer.

“We all love babies. This is a ministry of love and faith and of believing in life,” said coordinator Linda Lopez. “Parents expect to have a healthy baby, but something can go wrong and they find themselves in the NIC Unit. We all believe in what we are doing.”

Joan Feucht, who said her mother taught her to sew when she was a child, agreed. “I love sewing. This is a way for me to give back the gifts God gave me.”

Dorothy Cwieka said she decided to join Threads of Love after all of her children had grown. “Once they left home, we decided we wanted to do something for babies,” she said.

Courville and her husband stuff the white socks that form the base for the Lovie Dolls. A brightly colored ribbon is tied around the filled sock about a third of the way from the top to form a head. Other Threads of Love members draw facial features on the doll.

The doll is placed first with the mother, so that it can absorb her scent. Then it is placed with the baby, who is in intensive care, and returned again to the mother, hopefully forming a bond between them. Lopez said the dolls are also thought to help bring in the mother’s milk.

The group started about 10 years ago when a nurse at Woman’s Hospital approached then pastor Father Cleo Milano about sewing for the NIC Unit. He placed an inquiry in the church bulletin and the ministry began as a group of ladies, many of whom are still members, responded to the call.

Threads of Love is not just about sewing. It’s the camaraderie of being with the other members. It’s so much fun to be together, Feucht said. “As you can hear, we all talk at the same time,” Lopez added during the groups’ March meeting held in the church hall. “We have a good time and after we sew, we have lunch, which we take turns preparing.”

The group is funded entirely through donations and a raffle of a christening gown made by one of its members, Barbara Chatelain.

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Joan Feucht sorts tiny shirts made for premature babies at Woman’s Hospital. Photos by Barbara Chenevert | The Catholic Commentator

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Shown are the Lovie Doll and other items hand made by Threads of Love ministry.