TENAFLY, N.J. — As soon as nurse Patty August’s latex gloves come off, puppets go on.
And as soon as the smiling puppets go on, the cries that echo through the Bergenfield public nurse's office fade to laughter.
For that, August thanks a group of senior women who meet at the Tenafly Senior Center twice a month and sew puppets with one goal in mind: to make children smile.
“They’re the cutest little ladies and all they ask in return is a thank you note,” August said of the group of 90-year-old women who together are "From Heart to Hands."
"And the note is only for inventory."
The "From Heart To Hands" effort began in 1908 — the year U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was in office. They've been sending shipments of smiling puppets to emergency rooms, foster homes and underserved children living in all corners of the world.
The puppets cheer hungry children in Africa and have seen Eskimos in Alaska.
The women donate all of the materials and make everything by hand. They use teabags to die the puppets’ “skin” or turn them into animals, instead of faces.
Bergenfield grandmother Dagmar Libonati, 90, remembers her father, formerly a tailor, every time she makes one.
“When someone asks, they get puppets,” said Libonati, formerly a Hackensack nurse who honed her sewing skills in class at Bergenfield’s Washington School.
The program gives the volunteers as much reason to smile as its recipients, August said.
“People need to know there’s always something you can do,” she said. “They could sit back and do nothing but here they are making these beautiful puppets.”
Email Patty August for more information on From Heart To Hands.
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