A sewing machine — and a spritz of lavender mist — are the tools Pat Rullo uses to bring comfort to American troops serving overseas.
The nonprofit organization she founded, Sewport Our Troops, sends handmade pillowcases to our soldiers overseas, in service of a simple, goal.
“We aim to create a one-of-a-kind, comforting reminder from home that says: ‘We care — and may every soldier feel our love and appreciation.’”
Rullo founded the organization after her mother was hospitalized for four months following a missed medical diagnosis.
“She was unable to return to her normal life due to a continuing series of medical mishaps during her hospital stay; however, once home she felt extreme gratitude to be alive,” Rullo explains. “It was then she and I decided to do something for others who might not have friends or family available for support as my mom did during her arduous hospital stay. My mom loves to sew, and we decided to make pillowcases to send to troop members overseas as a small token of our appreciation.”
Rullo also connected her efforts to her radio program, Speak Up and Stay Alive: Serious About Patient Safety, which books tours by tying the proceeds from sales of her book (also called “Speak Up and Stay Alive”) to the pillowcase project.
“When someone purchases a book, we add their name as the donor of two pillowcases,” she explains, noting that proceeds from her Internet radio station Speak Up Talk Radio also help fund the project.
How has the organization changed over the years?
Rullo says one big change is that what began as a project that was her mother’s alone is one that they now share.
“I always wanted to learn to sew, but never took the time to learn, so this has proved to be a great opportunity. Together we have made hundreds of pillowcases.” Now the duo is in the midst of another change as one of her mother’s shoulders is causing her constant pain and she’s unable to move that arm at all.
“But that hasn’t stopped us!” Rullo says. When sheo makes public appearances to speak about patient safety, she tells them about Sewport Our Troops and if the groups have sewing clubs, they often offer to assist.
“We furnish the fabric and they happily make the pillowcases for us,” Rullo explains. “We also hand-deliver pillowcases to local veteran shelters, and we are considering adding women’s shelters as potential recipients.”
The Results Have Been Remarkable
Last year Rullo received a letter that said: “I am stationed onboard a US Navy ship currently on deployment overseas. We are in the Middle East right now, in the Fifth Fleet AOR. We will be underway for the holidays this year. We, the Chiefs Mess, are doing something special for the crew during the holidays. My question is, would Sewport Our Troops be willing to spread some holiday cheer for the sailors onboard? What we are doing is getting and wrapping gifts for the crew here. On Christmas Day we will hand out raffle tickets to all of the junior sailors. At various times, we will call out a ticket number, and that sailor will report to the Chiefs Mess where we will give them their gift. It is just a way we can boost morale while being at sea for the holidays. Thank you for your time and consideration.”
Upon receipt of that letter, Rullo promptly sent a package of 100 pillowcases — each individually wrapped and sealed with holiday stickers.
The return note she received said: “Pat, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We did receive a box of pillowcases and the crew was very excited!! Thank you so much for helping make the sailors’ holiday a little brighter! You all ROCK!!!!”
Rullo adds: “I think that says it all. While it might sound odd, I don’t feel proud, but rather humbled and honored to make a small difference in the life of someone whom I do not know and never will.”
Rullo’s goal is to sell more of her books so that she and her mom can make and send more pillowcases. “Speak Up and Stay Alive” is listed on the recommended reading list of US Army’s Medical Department Office of Quality Management, and it sells for $19.95, which purchases two yards of fabric.
Indeed, all of the pillowcases are made from brand new, 100 percent cotton fabrics and boast three layers of material.
“Each fabric we choose is individually selected for softness, design, and color combination aesthetic,” she notes. “Prior to sewing the cases, we launder the fabrics with a non-bleach organic soap, and dry them without the use of synthetic dryer sheets. The soon-to-be pillowcase fabrics are hand cut, one at a time, and stitched in a smoke-free, pet-free location. All inside seams are french seamed, serged, or pinked to prevent fraying. Upon completion, each pillowcase is lovingly steam pressed with a light lavender mist, until perfect.”
Rullo also adds a handwritten note with the donor’s name into each case.
The bottom line, she says, is how much a simple pillowcase can lift the spirits of the military men, women, and veterans who receive them. “One doesn’t have to agree or disagree with war efforts to feel good about taking part in a random act of kindness that positively affects another human being.”
For more information, visit sewportourtroops.com.
And read about how to survive a hospital stay in her book, Speak Up and Stay Alive, which Be Inkandescent featured in the March 2015 issue.