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Woman from Monroe County providing comfort for caretakers

A hospice center in Scranton received a special thank-you gift from a woman from Monroe County who is lending her talents to provide comfort to caretakers.

SCRANTON, Pa. — When the pandemic was at its worst, Alma Ruiz-Smith of Coolbaugh Township was feeling helpless, looking for a way she could give back. She decided to lean into her strengths.

"I am not Florence Nightingale. I know my limitations. I know my strengths and my weaknesses. One of my greatest strengths and blessings is being able to sew. I want to share that with the world," Ruiz-Smith said.

Ruiz-Smith started sewing pillowcases. She's since provided dozens of them to doctors and nurses at health care facilities across Monroe County.

She's now moving into Lackawanna County and providing some comfort to health care professionals who may have been overlooked during the pandemic. She sewed pillowcases for the nurses at Allied Hospice in Scranton.

"Not unlike what the hospitals are going through with their staff, I'm sure the staff here have a lot of nights where they have to stay here and care for their patients and stay here to take care of the families, so the professionals, they need a lot of tender loving care for what they do."

Registered Nurse Christie Slagus says the past year has been the most challenging of her career in hospice nursing.

"We were the only hospice that was taking COVID patients into our unit. And some of the stories are really heartbreaking. We experienced people who may have had a cancer diagnosis and contracted COVID while they were getting treatment and passed here. We were there with the families in PPE and let them go in," Slagus said.

Something as simple as a homemade pillowcase can make a big difference.

"I think every little bit of gratitude, whether it be monetary, whether it be a gift card, whether it be a pillow, that somebody thought about you, they know that we care so much for the care that we're providing across the Allied system," said Jim Brogna, an official with Allied.

Ruiz-Smith says she will keep sewing as long as she's needed.