The Stuffed with Love group delivers Christmas stockings to hospital oncology units to offer encouragement to those battling cancer.
The group’s leader is Jenifer Niederwerfer, a 14-year resident of Rutherford County.
In 2013, Niederwerfer, a breast cancer survivor for the past eight years, wanted to find a way to spread hope to other cancer survivors.
“After I was diagnosed, I wrecked my motorcycle and broke both my legs,” she said. “Heading into the holidays that year, I was laid up in bed and couldn’t really go anywhere, so I spent a lot of time online just connecting with people, and I connected with Taira Baughman, a Stage Four, Triple Negative, metastatic breast cancer survivor.
“She was delivering Christmas stockings to the chemo unit where she received treatment because she just wanted to bring some extra joy. I really felt God was like, ‘That’s what I need you to do next year,’ and I was like, ‘OK.’ ”
Niederwerfer contacted friends and posted on social media about her project. She said she originally expected to deliver 20 stockings to the hospital where she had received her chemotherapy. That delivery quickly increased to about 150 stockings to five oncology units.
Last year, the group delivered 300 stockings to 12 cancer units, the VA hospitals in Nashville and The Children’s Hospital at TriStar Centennial. This year’s scheduled delivery locations include Ascension Saint Thomas Rutherford in Murfreesboro, TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center in Smyrna and TriStar Summit Medical Center in Hermitage.
Niederwerfer and her team work on the project for about six months every year.
“Usually about in June, we put out on social media and talk with our family and friends and whatnot, ‘Hey, Stocking Time!’ ” she said. “We have people gather hand sanitizer, Chapstick, individually packaged healthy snacks, socks, and hand-crocheted hats that go in each stocking.”
In mid-November, the group holds a “stuffing event”, where all of the stockings are stuffed in assembly line-style. Niederwerfer said she has a core group of about 12 members and another 120 members of the Facebook group help deliver items for stuffing, collect donations, stuff the stockings, or deliver them.
Gloria McGee is the practice liaison with Tennessee Oncology and coordinates with Niederwerfer for the stocking deliveries that go to Tennessee Oncology’s units.
“It’s a wonderful event. Our patients really love it, as well as our staff and our physicians,” McGee said. “I think we see the joy it brings our patients, if only for those few minutes when they’re sitting in those treatment chairs. Even more than that, I think it’s the connections, because most of the people involved in this with Jen are cancer survivors themselves.
“Many of them come back the next year to volunteer with her, and it’s so interesting to see them go full circle and be the ones giving out the stockings the next year because they received one and knew what joy they brought.”
For information about Stuffed With Love, go to the group’s Facebook page.