Many people over a certain age have a lot of things they keep for future use.

Ann Snuggs confesses to having a basement full o’ junk, left over from designing magazines and years of crafting.

But she’s found a way to use those treasures. For starters, there were thousands of buttons and yards of fabric. There were also skeins upon skeins worth of silk ribbon, silk ribbon, and tiny satin roses.

Handy storage has been a problem, but little by little the stash is moving into Aleshia Holland’s office in the Stanly County Senior Center.

“Aleshia has gone out of her way to help us. She’s been wonderful,” Snuggs.

Holland is Stanly Senior Services’ programs supervisor and has joined hands with Snuggs to create a service project for people with dementia.

After retiring from the crafting business, Snuggs donated her time to local hospices. Bunny Hasty, the hospice volunteer coordination coordinator in Scotland County, informed Snuggs of her story many years later. “fidget aprons” for dementia patients.

“When dementia hit my family in a personal way, I found support through the Caregiver Connection group Alecia facilitates at the Senior Center,” Snuggs said, “and I shared the fidget apron idea with the support group.”

Snuggs and Fidget Friends started meeting Mondays last fall from 10 a.m. until noon.

Each week they haul plastic bins of supplies from Holland’s office to a large room where the items are accessible. They were encouraged and given advice by Hasty in the beginning and have since learned more about sensory stimulation using everyday objects.

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They have made 24 fidget Stanly County dementia patients have received aprons and 20 more are available for donation.

Snuggs searched online for inspiration and made a sample apron. The group decided a black background served to highlight the accessories best, and they liked a style like a carpenter’s apron.

“God has given everybody a different gift. Our combined gifts come together to make the whole. I try to look at this project from the different perspectives, though someone must make decisions about quality control,”Snuggs.

Fidget Friends still has other supplies and is open to receiving donations for the purchase of ready-made, high-quality aprons.

Snuggs originally wanted a heart sewn onto every apron. Every apron now has a white hanging tag with a circle of red hearts on it.

“I love it when I know I’m helping others. Serving is my spiritual gift,” Maxine Basinger

She was the one who created “hospice angels” For many years, she has been sewing again.

Fidget Friends members Mary Louise Sawyer (left), Karen Fournier (right), Ann Snuggs (right), Barbara Ledbetter (right), and Maxine Basinger (right) look at some of the work they have done during a meeting at Stanly County Senior Center. (Photo by JO GREY)

During work sessions members discuss the best place for at least six features to each apron. Using a designer’s eye, they adapt the various supplies they have on hand, then someone takes the apron home and permanently attaches the items using very strong thread.

Attached with ribbon, small stuffed animals slip in and out of pockets. Securely attach a stretchy glove to ensure that the marble inside can be moved around without falling out.

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If not sewn carefully, pulling and stretching can cause plaited braids to fall out or zippers to be ripped.

The Friends’ newest member Barbara Ledbetter was looking for a group of quilters when she stumbled on the Fidget Friends. Now, she contributes her skills to the group.

Ledbetter, who spent decades working in technical services at Stanly County Public Library’s Stanly County Public Library, is excited to be able to serve Stanly in a new way.

Karen Fournier is an experienced crafter who’s also been looking for a volunteer opportunity since she retired and has found a fit in Fidget Friends.

Debby Johnston says she doesn’t sew, but she enjoys collecting, sorting and designing. For inspiration at a recent meeting, she brought a treasured possession made for her grandchildren a “Quiet Book” Fabric-filled with features that teach children to zip zippers, tie shoes, match shapes, and tell the time.

Some of those examples are being used by The Fidget Friends to create their latest project.

News of the Fidget Friends’ accomplishments caught the attention of a school counselor and of ABS Kids — both serve autistic children.

Fidget Friends has begun designing mats with features such as the fidget Aprons can be used to teach fine motor skills in classrooms and at home.

Snuggs claims that handmade items are becoming more popular as people age. They are a great way to bring pleasure and relaxation to your loved ones.

“I see this as a ministry,” Snuggles.

All the women give their time and talents in a way they feel is best for them, whether it’s collecting, sorting/designing, sewing or delivering.

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Snuggs says other interested ladies who’ve not been able to join the assembly line have contributed items, either purchased or handmade, and some have given money.

“We use seed money to buy aprons and other supplies and the need will surely increase,” Snuggles. “Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease involving different kinds of treatment. At some point, a caregiver will see a need for an apron, and will be glad if they have one on reserve.”

Anyone who is interested in joining the Fidget friends is invited to call Albemarle Senior Center at 704-986-3772.

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