Jeanne Schofield is a firm believer in what she calls the 11th commandment: Thou shall not waste. So when Schofield, a laundry aide at Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont, Minnesota, discovered a stash of forgotten fabric while cleaning shelves in the laundry room, she was eager to put it to good use. "The hospital used to make all of its own sheets and pillowcases, and this fabric was precut for pillowcases," says Schofield, who has worked in the department for almost 15 years. Since they were no longer needed, she says, "I asked my supervisor if I could donate the fabric if I could find a home for it."
The answer was yes, so Schofield started brainstorming possibilities. That's when she remembered a confirmation project where she'd sewn gowns for babies who passed away or were baptized in the hospital. The Sisters of Saint Francis had been a part of that project, so Schofield sent the fabric to them at Assisi Heights in Rochester, with a request that the fabric be turned into gowns for babies in need. But the package was returned to her — along with a note and a gift. "It turned out the gals who sewed those gowns were no longer on earth," Schofield says, "but they left their pattern behind." That pattern was included in the package, along with a note says she should "feel free to use the pattern" herself.
So Schofield decided to try her hand, and so far she has stitched six gowns for the Family Birth Center in Fairmont. But she's just getting started. Before she's done, Schofield expects to complete around 200. She's also recruited friends from church to sew additional gowns, which will be donated to an organization serving people in Haiti. "By the time we're done, around 1,500 little gowns will be made from what could have gone into a dumpster," Schofield says, adding that it gives her a warm feeling "to know that a child being baptized or buried will have something to wear."
It gives Julie Laue a good feeling as well. Laue, a registered nurse in the Obstetrics Department, tells us she was "happy and excited" — but not surprised — that Schofield "thought of our department for this." She's "always thinking of ways to do little things for our littlest patients," Laue tells us, noting that Schofield has made blankets and sheets for the cribs and isolettes in the birth center. "She is a wonderful person, very helpful and resourceful," Laue says.
For Laue, the handmade gowns are an especially meaningful contribution. It's a comfort, Laue says, to have something so thoughtful to pass along to parents whose infants pass away. Parents facing a loss "aren't thinking at the time of how they can dress the special little one that will not be going home with them," she says. "This may seem like a very small thing for Jeanne to do, but it is a big thing for these parents to be able to have those special gowns for their little ones."
Schofield tells us she's happy to give lessons to anyone who'd like to learn to make the gowns — and she assures us that there's no experience necessary to get involved. Email her at Schofield.Jeanne@mayo.edu to learn more. Then sew up our gratitude by leaving a comment below before using the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.