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10,000 turbans and counting


Last month, celebrating the creation of its 10,000th turban for chemotherapy patients, are the Parkrose United Methodist Church turban makers group: standing, from left, Lorry Mays, Keiko Stroud, Nancy Hughes, Betty Keast, Judy Wilson, Carol Dixon and Harriet Nixon. Seated, left to right, Dona Kinkade, Doris Schmidt and Marilyn Kaufmann.
Betty Keast models one of the turbans made for and given free to chemotherapy patients.
Judy Wilson, left, and Betty Keast get to work on the next 10,000. Ten area medical centers receive turbans, pillows, scarves and lap robes made by these hands at work.
Last month Dona Kinkade and nine fellow members of the Parkrose United Methodist Church turban makers marked a special anniversary. After seven years of efforts, Kinkade and her dedicated band of seamstresses celebrated the 10,000th turban created for area cancer patients who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy treatments.

In 2002, Parkrose United Methodist Church member Dona Kinkade was originally inspired by an article in Guideposts Magazine about a Christine Young, a Daytona Beach native and member of the Methodist Church who began a turban project in memory of family members lost to cancer. Kinkade decided to write the woman to request a turban pattern for her brother-in-law, who had recently lost his hair due to chemotherapy treatments. He said to her, “Dona, my head is cold. Can you make something for it?” And she did. Sadly, her brother-in-law did not survive long after treatment. His widow, Kinkade’s sister Harriet Nixon, is also an active member of the group and understands the effect a kindness has, big or small, on a family in the same situation.

Little did Kinkade realize she started something that would last seven years, creating 10,118 turbans, 2,242 pillows, 453 lap robes and hundreds of scarves. She has also made a difference in just as many lives; she’s attracted nine other church members to regularly volunteer their time (including 95-year-old Doris Schmidt), and their efforts have become part of the recovery process in 10 area hospitals.

Group members and cancer survivors — 42 and 32 years respectively — Judy Wilson and Carol Dixon were especially empathetic to Kinkade’s mission when they heard about it, engendering them to join the group years ago. Members have come and gone over the years, but, for the most part, the group has remained the same. Most members of the turban makers group are also members of the church, but not all. “Occasionally we get a volunteer that doesn’t belong to the church, but likes to sew,” member Nancy Hughes said.
Fabricating the head coverings is part of an international program called the Turban Gifts of Love Project started by Young. As interest in the turbans grew and church members and their friends became involved, Young created a starter packet, which includes a simple pattern for the turban. She passed away in 2005 at the age of 83, but will be remembered by all who continue her project.

Each member of the Parkrose United Methodist Church turban group produces at least 20 turbans a month; in addition to the dozens of pillows, scarves and lap robes the group lovingly creates.

When they have enough to deliver— approximately 240 pieces — to five medical institutions on their list (they rotate deliveries), each hospital receives a bag with at least 25 turbans, five pillows and scarves, and between one and three lap robes. Further fueling their work, the group receives much appreciated thank-you cards and donations of fabric from patients. It doesn’t happen very often, but occasionally the member making the delivery is inspired and rewarded by seeing a patient wearing a turban or scarf or using a lap robe she’s made.

Showing off more of their handiwork are, from left, Carol Dixon and Harriet Nixon, whose husband’s condition was the inspiration for the first turban in the Portland area, created by her sister and group founder Dona Kinkade.
Lorry Mays wears one of the group’s creations. “I would only make a turban I would wear,” said one member of the group, echoing all their sentiments.
Keiko Stroud poses with a recently completed head covering. In addition to turbans, the group creates pillows, lap robes and scarves for cancer patients in the Metro area.
Jon Smeenge, a medical assistant in the oncology/hematology treatment unit at Oregon Health & Science University, said, “These ladies are great. They’ve been making us hats and scarves and blankets and pillows for years now. It’s a nice gesture they do for us; everybody here appreciates it. I know over the years a lot of patients have written to them and expressed their thanks.” Inside each turban is a small printed message, explaining the project’s mission that the headdresses are to be provided at no expense to anyone who needs one. The card also identifies the gifts as coming from the women at the Parkrose United Methodist Church.

“We have a lot of women that lose their hair through treatment,” Smeenge said. “They make all these hats and stuff. We keep a selection out in the open. People come by, take what they need; it’s very helpful. Men, they usually don’t care about their hair. Women lose their hair; sometimes it’s a little traumatic, so anytime you can get a nice looking hat, they really appreciate it. It’s very important in their routine and recovery.”

“I won’t make a hat I wouldn’t wear” is a shared group sentiment spoken by turban maker Marilyn Kaufmann.

The turbans are one-size-fits-all, except the heartbreakingly small ones destined for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Monthly deliveries alternate, but a partial list of area hospitals the group delivers to includes OHSU, Adventist Medical Center, Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center, Providence Portland Medical Center, Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, Legacy Emanuel Hospital and Health Center, Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital and Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

The group meets once a month at Parkrose United Methodist Church, 11111 N.E. Knott St., in the Parkrose Heights Neighborhood of east Portland. The Parkrose United Methodist Church turban group is looking for donations of stretch fabric, polyester fiberfill, batting and yarn. And if you have a hankering to help, you can join the group because they plan on making more, undaunted at the yearly number of cancer cases.
To make a donation or to volunteer to help these ladies continue their mission of comforting the afflicted, call Nancy Hughes at 503-252-3926, e-mail her at or call the church at 503-253-7567.
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