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TALLAHASSEE – Calee Toomey is a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ and Vonnie Allen is a member of the Thomasville Road Baptist Church.
A project to make crochet blankets for premature babies in Tallahassee Memorial’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) brought the two together and forged a new friendship.
Toomey, from Richmond, Virginia, was serving in the in the church’s Tallahassee Stake — which includes congregations in Tallahassee, Thomasville, Cairo, Quincy, Crawfordville, Perry, and Madison.
Toomey and her missionary companion, Emily Stevens from Elk Ridge, Utah, met Allen in their apartment complex, where they were neighbors.
“Vonnie invited us to join their sewing group, Stitch and Serve, to crochet blankets. We went and met all these fabulous ladies,” said Toomey.
Allen, whose friendship, and caring have earned her something of a favorite-aunt status for the missionaries in her apartment complex, described their first encounters with fondness.
“When I take my little dog for a walk, he makes friends — so I do too,” she said with a laugh, adding that, when she met the missionaries, there was an immediate bond shared. “We chatted and found out we all love the Lord. I just fell in love with the young lady missionaries.”
As Allen shared with the sisters some of the things she does in service through her church, she was delighted by their interest, she said. “I brought yarn and a crochet hook and taught them to crochet. I’m a new member of the Stitch and Serve group, but until the virus, we got together every Friday at our church, and we all encouraged each other while we worked.”
The missionaries attended the crochet sessions weekly and, at the end of each one, Toomey said the women held a prayer meeting for people with special needs. “It was a sweet and tender experience to pray together. We met with the group for about a month and shared a message of Jesus Christ while learning how to crochet.”
Toomey and Gappmayer
Allen echoed the positive thoughts. “I love these young people — they’re great. In our sewing group, we would always close with prayer that our little missionary girls would be safe as they were far from home, that they were in their Heavenly Father’s arms.”
Once the quarantine began, the sisters continued to interact with their new friends through the Stitch and Serve email prayer group. “The prayers would be sent around,” Toomey explained, “and we’d all say ‘amen.’”
Other recipients of Allen’s crochet instructions were and Sister McKenna Miccolis from San Tan Valley, Arizona and Cassady Gappmayer from Lake Shore, Utah. Both enjoyed participating in ways that comfort some of the most vulnerable in our society—premature babies and their families.
“We were so used to doing service before the quarantine,” Miccolis noted, “that this opportunity provided a sense of normalcy to our day. It is neat to develop new skills, but it’s really cool that it’s going toward a good purpose — satisfaction on several different levels.”
Stevens agreed that it is gratifying to learn a skill enabling them to help families in crisis. “Still being able to do service in an important cause really uplifts our spirits. Even being in quarantine, it’s super awesome that we can still contribute.”
Before being transferred to continue her mission in Jacksonville, Toomey made half a dozen blankets and taught her next companion, Gappmayer, how to crochet. Gappmayer, still here and still crocheting, is now teaching her new companion, Emma Blake from Kaysville, Utah, how to make the 2 ft. x 2 ft. blankets.
“It’s an amazing idea,” Gappmayer said, “and I love being part of it. Instead of worrying about being stuck inside, we are looking outward and doing what we can. That makes me feel happy and a part of something good.”
The newbie in the crochet business, Blake said she is having a similar experience. “Crocheting is cool — you take yarn and somehow it turns into a blanket. But when I learned about the children these are for, it had more meaning. We love to serve people and bring some cheer with this project.”
At a time when every effort was made not to pass along a virus, Toomey was passing along a skill that led to many valuable contributions. In her modest manner, she summed up the experience. “It was wonderful serving this way, even quarantined – like stitching up a little bit of God’s love with a little bit of yarn.”