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Cambridge Church group brings comfort with Teddy Bears

Each week, a dedicated group of women come together at Westside Presbyterian Church in Cambridge to knit and stuff cuddly ‘Teddies of Comfort’

Hundreds of handmade teddy bears are spreading comfort, one stitch at a time.  

Each week, a dedicated group of women come together at Westside Presbyterian Church in Cambridge to knit and stuff cuddly ‘Teddies of Comfort’.

“In our group, we have all experienced such joy in creating something that we know will bring a little comfort to someone in our community,” said group co-organizer, Janet McKenna.

There are about seven to 12 ladies who meet every Wednesday morning in the church.

“We get together for an hour with coffee, conversation and knitting. Some are members of Westside, and some are friends. There is no commitment to attend regularly. We have a lot of fun and really look forward to our meetings,” McKenna said.

The group has donated Teddies for Comfort, also known as ‘Westies’, to the Cambridge Fire Department, St. Andrews Terrace Long Term Care Home, Stirling Heights Long Term Care Home, the Dawn Centre, Cambridge Memorial Hospital, as well as to members of the Westside church congregation.

“Cambridge Memorial Hospital was so happy to take our bears. They will go to various areas of need in the hospital including the special nursery, post partem moms, labour and delivery, and newly diagnosed diabetic children,” McKenna said.

Teddies for Comfort started meetings in April and took a break during the summer months.

“Some of our ladies continued to knit teddies over the summer,” McKenna said.

“This has just taken off. It’s a whole congregation project really. If you want to knit and help out, that’s great," she continued. "Other members of the church have donated money to buy the stuffing and yarn, so it really does involve the entire church community."

If you can’t knit, that’s ok. McKenna said there are other ways people can help to bring the lovable Westies to life.

“Not everyone knits. Some prepare stuffing and some measure yarn. We’ve left it open for anyone to come and join us, have a coffee and some social time," McKenna said.

“We measure the stuffing and yarn to see how much a bear would need, and we put it all into bags here. Often, the ladies will grab a kit, and finish the bears at home."

The idea came from Glenbrier Church in Brantford that offers a similar program called, Teddies for Trauma.

“We decided to call our program, Teddies for Comfort, as we thought we could reach a wider range of people,” McKenna said.

“We do like to keep the bears the same, in most part, with a few variations."

Some group members also knit caps made for newborns at Cambridge Memorial Hospital.

So far, over 250 teddy bears have been made and about 150 have been given away.

“We all just have such a great time making them,” said group co-organizer Sandy Grimwood.

“I didn’t have much time with my sister before this, and now, the two of us do this together, and that’s been really wonderful for me. It really gives us all time to get to know each other.”

McKenna said some women are church members, and others others are not.

“But we are all friends," she said. 

"It's amazing to see the joy these bears bring. And Sandy and I get so much out of being able to deliver our Westies. It is such a big lift for us,” McKenna said.

Rev. Dongwon Brian Jung from Westside Presbyterian Church, makes regular visits to members from the Westside church congregation, whether they are sick, or elderly.

“When I see this group every Wednesday morning, I can feel that the church is alive. It’s not just a building. We are alive and ready to serve someone, especially someone in need of comfort,” Jung said.

“When I visit people, I always bring a Westie for them.  And it is my joy to bring a Westie to them because they are so happy and thankful. They just continue to hold them. When I bring the Westies to people, its not just a teddy bear. There is so much heart put into them. They bring so much love.”

Jung will often take a photo of whoever he visits along their new Westie, which is then posted on the church Facebook page.

“We get to see the joy it brings our own community,” Grimwood said.

“Just seeing the bears sitting all over my house, ready to be delivered, they just give me comfort.”

Each bear comes with a tag attached stating where it came from. 

“We also do the Samaritan shoe boxes that will be sent overseas. We will pop some Westies in them this Christmas,” McKenna said.

McKenna says the hope is just to keep knitting.

“We have built new friendships and have strengthened former ones. One of our members is 90 and she just wants to keep going. She has produced so many bears. There’s just no stopping them,” she said.

“I think all of this has just really surprised me, and delivering our Westies, to see them bring such joy, it really is so special.”

For anyone interested in finding out more about Teddies for Comfort, visit here.

“They have been really well received. This brings people so much comfort, and brings all of us comfort too,” Grimwood said.

“You can’t not look at a Westie, and not feel good.”