Muriel Fredericks spent her 80th birthday Monday by volunteering her regular shift and delivering a prayer shawl to a thankful patient at Mesa's Banner Heart Hospital.
"I never thought I wouldn't," said Fredericks, a retired California plant supervisor for a company that made non-aerosol sprayers. "I volunteer to keep my sanity, to keep me busy."
Fredericks organizes the hospital's Prayer Shawl Program, which has 35 hospital volunteers and other community volunteers, including at the Red Mountain Senior Center, crocheting and knitting colorful shawls for patients.
"We see a need and we just do it," said Fredericks, who keeps track of the shawls that come in and notes the hours volunteers spend making the shawls. "We do it because we want to."
Each shawl has a small paper attached that explains the program, and says, "Each section of crochet/knitting represents prayers that were said especially for your healing and well-being."
Fredericks was crocheting slipper socks one day at the hospital when former Chaplain Gail Torrez asked if she could make a certain pattern.
That was May 2006, and Fredericks and the other volunteers have made hundreds of prayer shawls since. Each shawl takes between 18 to 30 hours to make, depending on the size and the intricacy of the pattern.
"It's something to keep our hands busy," said Fredericks, who makes an average of two shawls a month. "All of us like to crochet, but we've run out of people to give it to. Now, we don't run out. You can only give (the crocheted items) to so many family members."
Jenna Davis, the hospital's volunteer resource manager, said the program is a "really heartfelt service" the hospital offers, and "brings a lot of joy to patients."
"Getting that (prayer shawl) and knowing someone cares brings a smile to their face," Davis said.
Nurses and volunteers deliver the shawls to patients who are nervous over a surgery or need some cheering up.
On Monday, Fredericks was able to give a royal blue shawl with a white border to a patient.
Harry Furman of Mesa had an angiogram and a stint put in the left side of his heart. He was lying in his hospital bed when Fredericks gave him the shawl.
"I think it's very nice. Quite a talent," said Furman, 60, a retired truck driver. "I can feel how warm it is. I think it's a wonderful thing to do. I appreciate it and I'm sure others appreciate it, too."
Fredericks said it's different to actually give the prayer shawl to a patient instead of filling the cabinets with the shawls.
Although she said "it was kind of nice" handing out the shawl, she said she'd rather stay anonymous.
Besides her 20 hours a week at Banner Baywood, Fredericks also volunteers at a Mesa Moose Lodge and the Red Mountain Senior Center.
She has volunteered almost 35 hours a week since retiring and moving to Mesa's Fountain of the Sun community in 1997.
"You get to talk to people and you just feel alive (by volunteering)," said Fredericks, who is a widow with five sons and one daughter. "I'm no good just staring at four walls (in my house)."
Volunteers are always needed to make prayer shawls and to donate four-ply yarn.
For more information, call (480) 321-4122 or visit the Banner Baywood Heart Hospital lobby, 6750 E. Baywood Ave., Mesa.