Jan. 9, 2020
By David Nordby
The Brillion News
BRILLION – When Grace Metko’s brother Alex was in the hospital with pneumonia over Halloween when he was young, she remembered how gifts helped brighten the holiday.
“They were in the hospital one night and he got a bunch of goodies when he was in the hospital, so we just wanted to do something that would really help those kids and give them a little bit of joy over the holiday season,” Metko said.
Metko combined that memory, her love of the Christmas season and her love of sewing. “I’ve been sewing since I was six-years old,” Metko said. “I’ve also always really been interested in the medical field and helping people who are in the hospital over Christmas.” When she was a freshman, she organized a group that sewed and stuffed stockings to give to children’s hospitals.
“It was very, very different than it is now because we used some of my mom’s leftover Christmas scraps that she had in a pile,” Metko said.
Metko organized project meetings at her house and sewed 12 stockings.
“We found a really nice, easy pattern,” Metko said.
The New Horizons 4-H club gave her money. Another parent helped with purchases from Dollar Tree to stuff the stockings with a wide variety of items. The stockings were given to Ascension St. Elizabeth Children’s Hospital in Appleton.
The project has evolved since she was a freshman. She now precuts the fabric by hand and organizes everything.
At the project meetings, with volunteers young and old, she teaches participants how to sew a Christmas stocking from start to finish. No sewing experience is needed and Metko prepares all the materials.
“I cut everything out so then there’s smaller pieces for the kids to work with and they get to pick (the fabrics) and they get to cut them out and pin them out and get the full sewing experience,” Metko said.
Through local donations and a Thrivent grant, the group has been able to sew and fill more than 130 stockings.
“Stuffed animals and coloring books. We got little tops this year and little flying elf dudes and all sorts of fun toys to keep you occupied in a hospital bed,” Metko said.
This year’s group included 15-20 volunteers, children and adults, to help sew the stockings.
Two children’s hospitals in Appleton – Ascension St. Elizabeth and Theda Clark - have been recipients. Twenty-five stockings were given out last year at West Haven in Brillion.
Metko cannot go into the children’s rooms but says the nurses she hands them to are appreciative of them. She was able to speak with the residents at West Haven.
“They all wanted to come in and share stories with us and they were also so thankful to get the stockings and a little bit of Christmas cheer,” Metko said.
Metko hopes to continue her holiday tradition, and keep it growing, as she gets older. The senior plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for music education. She says that she may even work ahead this summer to have things ready.
“I love Christmas and now with all this, I start shopping for all this in October so my Christmas season starts really early, and I love the season of Christmas a lot,” Metko said.
Metko says that she also loves picking out different fabrics and patterns for sewing and quilting, skills she learned from her mother and grandmother. Her sewing has also proven helpful for her personal use.
“I’m a fairly short human being; I’m five-feet, so a lot of my clothes don’t fit me and if I want something to fit me really well, it’s just easier to make it than to buy it,” Metko said.
This story was featured in the Jan. 9, 2020 edition of The Brillion News.