Philanthropy of the Hands: Our Family’s Legacy

Categorized as: on December 5, 2011.


Editor’s Note: Believing that intention matters, we launched a small family foundation to invest a few hours and dollars in programs that end poverty through equal opportunity. Jasmine and Hugh, whose legacy of giving we aim to emulate, still work hard as volunteers.


Suzanne Skees by Suzanne Skees, Founder and Board Chair

Chances are, you know someone who devotes their time tirelessly to the change they wish to see in the world. Our family has many such members, yet we always navigate back to our true north: the example of first-generation Jasmine (77) and Hugh (84), whose community outreach has lasted as long as their 56-year marriage. They raised seven children and worked hard as a hospital unit clerk and chemical engineer, but somehow they always found time to reach out beyond their own bills, carpools, and chores, to care for those around them, whom they also considered to be family.

This is the first in a series about our legacy, past to present, local to global.

Jasmine prayer shalwsJasmine’s Prayer Shawl Ministry

Even at her age, with all she’s seen, Jasmine still weeps when someone else is hurting. An active volunteer in hospital ministry, hospice care, homeless shelter, and parish outreach, she has developed a reputation as a hugger. And somewhere along the way, she discovered a creative way to give hugs that last.

A Lifetime of Needlework

Jasmine has been doing embroidery and crochet most of her life. “I started crocheting when I was pregnant with Sandy,” Jasmine recalls. “We had our second child when our first child was 11 months old. With the help of my husband, I taught myself to crochet, because I knew I was going to be spending a lot of time at home taking care of them. I made dresser scarves, lots of doilies, and the bedspread that’s been on our bed all these years.”

Five more babies followed, and Jasmine expanded her repertoire. “I made afghans for each of our children and grandchildren when they graduated from high school, just so they would have the warmth of my love as they went out into the world. I made a few as wedding gifts. I didn’t have an ahamoment or anything like that, but I heard about prayer shawls and just started doing it.”

Wrapping People Up in Care

As its name indicates, a prayer shawl can be wrapped around the shoulders or draped like a blanket. “I work with the softest yarn money can buy, and yet these shawls can be thrown into the washer and dryer,” Jasmine comments. She has completed at least 100 shawls so far, many for low-income single mothers living in The Glen in Dayton, Ohio. “Sister Donna, the spiritual director there, tells me that sometimes when she is making her rounds in the evenings, stopping by to see the families, she will glimpse a mother snuggling with her child,” Jasmine says, “the shawl wrapped around them both.”

She’s also given shawls to patients and their caregivers in the hospice program through Kettering Hospital, and patients preparing for surgery. “There was a woman who was being prepped for surgery. She was quite elderly, alone and frail, and really frightened. Reverend Risha gave her a prayer shawl, and she refused to let go of it. They wheeled her in clutching that shawl.” Besides crocheting, Jasmine serves as a hospice and hospital minister, gathers food and clothing supplies for St Joseph the Worker, and sorts clothing every Monday for St. Vincent Hotel for the homeless.

Sometimes, Jasmine makes shawls for family and friends in crisis. “We know a couple whose husband had a heart attack and crashed his car into a tree.” Jasmine recalls. “Jack was in the hospital. He’d been declared brain dead. I brought him a prayer shawl, and his wife, Judy, laid it over him like a blanket when the doctors disconnected the life support. He lingered for several days.”

On Sunday, Jasmine’s friend Tricia came running up to her at church. “Here was this tiny, dear woman, wearing a little cap to cover her cold head,” Jasmine says. “She’s lost most of her hair while going through chemotherapy. I had made a shawl for her. ‘You just cannot know what it means to me,’ Tricia said.”

Jasmine chokes up a little. “And for me,” she says, “that is what it’s all about: that connection.”

Love in Action, One Shawl at a Time

Not a day goes by when Jasmine does not pray for “anyone I’ve ever made a prayer shawl for.” She chooses among a variety of colors and responds to requests from social workers and ministers she knows, and also follows hunches she receives while immersed in prayer.

“Recently, Hugh and I attended a film festival at our faith community, and of course I brought my crochet for something to do while watching the movie. The parish director of ministry asked what I was doing, and when I explained, she talked me into presenting eight shawls to our church. I didn’t want to stand in front of all those people, but the eucharistic ministers stood up with me and they went on to deliver the shawls to shut-ins.”

Another stack of shawls will soon go to a program in Chicago for “hardcore teens who are homeless, addicted, and at risk.”

And from there, it all depends on who needs care . . . and how fast Jasmine’s fingers can fly.


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