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She helps seniors get around

Smithsburg woman creates senior totes

Smithsburg woman creates senior totes

September 23, 2009|By MARIE GILBERT

SMITHSBURG - Most senior health care expos have a fairly predictable assortment of vendors hawking a fairly predictable assortment of products.

Browse the various booths and you'll find everything from wheelchairs to blood pressure monitors.

Then, there is Debbie Cramer.

Sitting at a table surrounded by items that help make an older adult's life safer and more manageable, nothing is made in a factory - unless you consider her sewing room a factory.

Cramer makes homemade products to meet the everyday needs of seniors.

It wasn't something she set out to do, she said. It was the result of watching her own parents struggle with performing simple chores.

"When my parents got older, they began using walkers," the Smithsburg resident said. "I watched them trying to carry things and it scared me to death. I knew there had to be something they could put on their walkers to make transporting items a lot safer."

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That's when she came up with the idea for a walker tote.

"I wanted something a little nicer than a basket off of a bicycle or a black mesh bag," she said.

So she sat down with paper and pencil and came up with a design.

Cramer only intended to make two - one for her mother, one for her father.

But it didn't work out that way.

"When they moved into assisted living, other people saw it and asked me to make one for them," she said.

An act of kindness suddenly turned into a home business.

It wasn't long before she began getting requests for other items - something to hold personal security alarms or coins, cover-ups that were more dignified than the oversized plastic bibs typically placed around a person's neck at meals.

"It kind of expanded," Cramer said. "People were asking me if I could make this or that. They began giving me suggestions and I tried to help them out."

While residents and staff members at her parents' assisted-living home knew about her products, Cramer's work still was largely unknown.

Then, last May, she participated in a senior-oriented fair at Valley Mall, where her items generated a lot of interest.

"I had people telling me they had been looking for items like the ones I made, but didn't know where to find them," Cramer said. "I was really pleased with the response."

Since then, Cramer has participated in several other health fairs in the area and is working on creating a Web site for mail orders. She also has a stall at Rocky Ridge Collectibles.

"I never expected this to grow," she said. "It just kind of happened."

Cramer said she always has been creative with her hands and has done everything from punch-needle embroidery to stained-glass mosaics.

"As a kid growing up in Hagerstown's West End, my mother taught me how to crochet and cross-stitch," she said. "And I sew. I've always loved yarn and thread. I guess you can say I'm a material girl."

Cramer said she does all of her homemade items for seniors in her sewing room at her home in Whispering Hills, spending an hour here, an hour there filling orders.

"The problem is, I have more ideas than time," she said. "There are so many little things that could be created to make an older person's life easier and more dignified. I want to be the person to help them out. "

"If I can make their world safer and more comfortable, if I can do something to make a person smile, then I'm happy," she added.

Cramer's homemade items average between $18 and $30.

For more information, call 301-824-2996.

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