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SUN CITY CENTER: Women with heart

Published on: September 13, 2018

Women of heart make heart-shaped pillows for others


Members of the GFWC Sun City Center Woman’s Club arts and crafts program gather for a group photo at one of their recent sew-ins, where they produce heart-shaped pillows to be given to folks in area hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and other healthcare organizations.

Members of GFWC Sun City Center Woman’s Club arts and crafts program have been sewing their hearts out the past three years. Using fabric, stuffing and thread, they’ve made thousands of heart-shaped pillows and taken them to folks in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and other healthcare organizations, all with the goal of brightening someone’s day.

“We have lots of fun and fellowship. We tell each other crazy grandmother stories and plan for upcoming projects,” said Sally Anne Barclay, vice president of the club and chairwoman of the arts and crafts committee. “As a group, we’re supposed to do something to benefit the community, and making the pillows is one of our signature projects.

Barclay said she once received a heart-shaped pillow from a church when she had breast cancer and was in a hospital years ago in New Hampshire.

“It meant the world to me that someone I didn’t know would take the time and do something to show they cared,” she continued. “It meant the world to me.” 

Barclay suggested the SCC Woman’s Club take on a similar effort through its arts and crafts committee, and the project took off rapidly. The first year, 500 pillows were made and distributed to Sun Terrace and South Bay Hospital. That number more than tripled the following year, when the ladies in the sewing program produced 1,573.

Word about the pillows spread like wildfire, so much so that St. Joseph’s Hospital–South, Freedom Plaza Memory Care, LifePath Hospice, Florida Cancer Specialists and two local cardiology clinics were added by request.

“We were asked to add others outside of the Sun City Center area and we had to say no,” Barclay said.

SCC Woman’s Club President Sharon Alvarez, left, Sally Anne Barclay, vice-president and arts and crafts committee chairwoman and JoAnnie Powers sew pillows shut before sending them to have tags added.

By Dec. 31, the arts & crafts team will have made 3,000 heart-shaped pillows. And that’s with only seven to 20 seamstresses.

“These amazing ladies come to our three-hour, monthly sew-ins, and they take fabric with them to cut, stuff and sew at home,” Barclay said. “I’m truly blessed.”

The club provides a small working budget for the effort, but the sewing team relies greatly on donations of fabric, Poly-Fil and thread from the community. The Nearly New Shop has both discounted and donated fabric to help.

Barclay said a box of Poly-Fil costs $49.99 per box and only supplies stuffing for 30 pillows, so monetary donations are also appreciated.

“I go to garage sales, where I get fabric donated nine times out of 10 after I tell them what we’re doing,” Barclay said. “We have a wonderful community.”

Beginning this month, the arts and crafts committee is taking on another project — making knitted, crocheted or sewn lap blankets for hospice.

“They asked, and we’re just going to do it,” Barclay said. “We may have to meet a few more times each month when the club meets September through May. Those who aren’t continue throughout the year.”

If you’d like to help by volunteering to sew or by donating cash or fabric, call Barclay at 813-634-2912, 813-334-1839 or email her at

For information on joining the GFWC SCC Woman’s Club, call Linda Raymond at 813-331-3108 or email her at The membership cost is $35 per year.

Aine Paik, left, and Marge Hartig-Specht sew the openings of the heart-shaped pillows after they’ve been stuffed with Poly-Fil.

Nancy Derby, left, Faith Houdeck and Rosalie Rochford stuff pillows with Poly-Fil before passing them along to be sewn shut.

Virginia Kimball, right and Anne Rankin stitch together the heart-shaped fabric forms, leaving a space open to allow the insertion of stuffing.

Pam Cummings shows some of the heart shapes she has cut that will be used to make pillows.

Linda Raymond, membership secretary of the Sun City Center Woman’s Club, cuts fabric into heart shapes for the pillows the arts and crafts team are making.

This is a close-up view of one of the tags that will be added to each pillow before it is given away to cheer up a member of the community