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Volunteers with SALT make dolls for children

August 15, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT
  • Juanita Gliniak, left, and Barbara King are co-chairwomen of a doll-making project for Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT). The group provides homemade dolls to children involved in traumatic situations.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer,

Juanita Gliniak sits in her Hagerstown home and sorts through a colorful bundle of cloth.

In the hands of local volunteers, the material will take shape - a soft doll with a kind face and a ribbon around its neck.

At the age of 88, Gliniak has seen her share of dolls. But these will be unlike another others, for each will hold a special meaning to a special child.

They are comfort dolls.

Gliniak doesn't know when or where, but the dolls will one day find their way into the arms of a girl or boy who has been involved in a frightening occurrence - an auto accident, a domestic dispute or a house fire.

"Hopefully, that doll will bring a smile to a child's face," Gliniak said. "Hopefully, it will bring comfort."

Since 1999, Gliniak has been a part of an organization known as Triad, which was established in Washington County during the 1990s to provide service for senior citizens. It operates under the sponsorship of the National Sheriff's Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National AARP.

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Around the same time, the SALT Council of Washington County was formed. SALT is an acronym for Seniors and Law Enforcement Together.

The council acts as an advocacy and advisory group for seniors and provides a forum for the exchange of information between seniors and law enforcement.

Gliniak said she's "one of those people who gets involved in lots of things."

So when Triad needed volunteers to visit nursing homes, she added her name to the list.

When the group needed someone to make calls to shut-ins, she signed up.

And when the SALT Council was looking for someone to head the comfort doll program, she decided "I could do that, too."

Gliniak said the purpose of the program is simple but powerful - to make cloth dolls, which are then distributed to county law enforcement, fire departments and ambulance companies to help calm the fears of children in crisis situations.

The dolls are made from a simple pattern and donated materials, the local woman said.

Volunteers include senior citizen groups, homemakers' clubs and individuals, including residents of Homewood of Williamsport who have the time and talent to devote to the program.

Gliniak said a bit of an assembly line is used, with some volunteers creating the doll forms and others making the faces, stuffing the bodies or adding ribbons and labels. Some enjoy making the entire doll from scratch.

"It doesn't take that much time," she said, "and it makes a big difference in a child's life. If you can make a child smile, then it's worth it."

Barbara King, who serves as co-chairwoman with Juanita, said being involved with the program "makes you feel good. It's very rewarding."

King, 75, said she was in a local homemakers club with Gliniak when she learned about the project.

"After hearing Juanita talk about it, some of the women decided this was something we wanted to do," she said.

On a recent weekday, King delivered 50 dolls to Gliniak's home, which serves as a clearinghouse for the program.

Gliniak said she has several hundred dolls in storage and more always are being created.

The dolls then are delivered to local agencies, as needed, she said.

In addition to local use, the women said comfort dolls have been sent to the Gulf Coast region following Hurricane Katrina, as well as to children in Afghanistan.

Gliniak said she would love to send comfort dolls to Haiti, but hasn't found a way to get them there.

"But I'm hoping it will still happen," she said.

Volunteers and donated material are always needed, Gliniak said.

"We'll take all the material people will give us. We never want to run out," she said.




How to help ...

People interested in being involved in the comfort doll program should call 301-739-7268.

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