There's a quote by author Edward Everett Hale that says: "I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything; but still I can do something."
That statement rings true for the work of one Monroe County woman.
Jenia Tolbert has decided to use her love of sewing to give to causes close to her heart.
She spends much of her time in a room adorned with wreaths of ribbons and pockets filled with patches neatly organized by color.
The hum of her sewing machine fills the corner affectionately labeled "Mamaw's Place."
“I've made my grandkids just about anything and everything you can imagine,” she laughs.
There is one keepsake, though, they consider particularly close to their hearts.
“I call them my ‘scrappys,’” she says holding up a patchwork pup.
For years, Tolbert has been making stuffed dogs, and she says each of her 11 grandchildren has received one when they were born.
“I’ll never do two dogs alike,” she says.
Recently, she decided to use that tradition to help others.
“I thought, ‘Well, why not sell the stuff that I make and give the money to charity?’”
She started a website to put the items up for sale. Each quarter, she picks a different organization to give the proceeds. Right now, she is donating to Shriner’s Hospitals, and the next group will be Wounded Warriors.
“I'm not doing this because I want Hero cookies, or whatever,” Tolbert explains. “It's just something I enjoy doing and trying to do something good in the process of doing it.”
After overcoming congestive heart failure, Tolbert suffers from health problems that prevent her from working the way she used to.
Through sewing, however, she says she found an outlet and a way to contribute to the greater good.
“I can't do much, but what little bit I do do, it gives me such a feeling of included, you know, in the world,” she says. “Because when you're disabled, and I know a lot of people feel this way, you feel like you're an outsider.”
Even if she considers her donations a “little bit,” the work can still have big meaning.
Just like her “scrappy” dogs take a lot of pieces to come together, it requires every single one. The result is something pretty special.
Each stitch and each patch make up a little labor of love.
Tolbert hopes the one-of-a-kind gifts that make her grandchildren smile will make someone else happy too.
“Find something that you enjoy, and turn it into something someone else can enjoy.”
Tolbert also makes blankets, bags, hot pads, and several other pieces.
The dogs cost $20. Tolbert keeps a few dollars for supplies, and the rest goes to the charity selected for that time period.
She says even if you do not want the stuffed animal but would still like to donate the money, she will give your dog to the local women’s shelter.
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