Evelyn Carle doesn’t give her heart away.
But she does give hearts — lots of them.
Recently, the Fremont woman led an effort that kept almost a dozen local residents busy stuffing heart-shaped pillows that will be given to breast cancer patients.
The pillows can help reduce pain from surgical incision pulling, under arm swelling and shoulder tension. Patients can put a pillow under a seatbelt. The pillows also support the chest when the patient coughs.
Carle began her pillow project about two years ago. On Thursday, she directed women who put stuffing into the pillows or sewed them shut or placed them in plastic bags for delivery.
The recently made pink pillows — all 150 of them — would be delivered to Methodist Estabrook Cancer Center in Omaha. Carle’s first delivery of pillows went to Fremont Area Medical Center in June 2011. Since then, she and other local women have made 260 pillows.
“When we’re done today, it will be 300,” she said.
Carle’s daughter, Rhonda Sell of Fremont, has been a breast cancer survivor for almost four years. Carle said a niece in Minnesota, a 25-year breast cancer survivor, gave one of the pillows to Sell.
Sell got the pillow pattern, gave it to her mother and encouraged her to begin sewing them.
“She loves doing something for others,” Sell said of her mom.
Sell also enjoys the pillow project.
“I get to shop for the material, which is fun,” she said.
Carle began making the pillows by herself, cutting out heart shapes from the material, stitching them together before stuffing and sewing them closed. After she’d made several, other women at Nye Square Retirement Community offered to help.
Edna Battiato and LaVonne Rohlfs help sew the heart pillows. Other women have helped stuff the pillows.
“I had maybe five or six come to my apartment and they had a good time,” she said.
Then Estabrook asked Carle to make 150 pillows.
“When it (the project) got this big, I had to do it all a little differently. I got more people involved,” she said.
Women sat at tables in the retirement community’s sunroom Thursday morning. Amid chit chat and laughter, they stuffed the pink pillows.
“It’s a goodwill project,” said Helene Rector. “It will help a lot of people be happy and comfortable.”
Battiato worked steadily on one pillow.
“This is my donation to the cancer center,” said Battiato, adding, “I had a sister and a sister-in-law who had a mastectomy.”
Edna Bergquist attached stickers with Carle, Battiato and Rohlfs’ names and addresses to small pieces of paper stating how the pillows can be used. The papers are placed in plastic bags with each pillow.
“I suggested that she put the names and addresses with the pillows and she gets back the nicest notes,” Bergquist said.
Carle likes receiving thank you notes for the pillows.
“Then you want to sit down and make more,” she said.
Carle added that cancer patients haven’t been the only ones to benefit from the pillows.
“I have a friend who had a pacemaker put in and she was so sore under the arm,” Carle said. “I gave her one and she said it was wonderful.”
Kathryn Simone, nurse practitioner at Estabrook, knows patients there appreciate the pillows as well.
“I think it helps each lady as they go through the journey,” Simone said. “To know that a bunch of ladies they’ve never met want to support them is surprising and wonderful.”