Bridging People and Places   

                                One Person at a Time



                                   Our Wonderful Volunteers

                    Sharing Their Stories, Their Talents, and Giving from Their Hearts


Knitter of the Year 2009 - Joan Sullivan of Schuylerville, NY

Joan Sullivan, who has knit over 3,000 teddy bear sweaters, was selected as the Bridging People and Places Knitter of the Year 2009 by the Board of Directors.  She was recently honored at Schuylerville Elementary School where students dressed over 120 bears in sweaters made by Joan.  Joan was presented with a framed Certificate of Appreciation and a Vera Bradley knitting bag by Lorraine Thompson, President of Bridging People and Places.  The Saratogian covered the event and featured it on Saturday, November 14, 2009.  The article can be read on the following link:

Over 2,500 Sweaters Knit by Joan Sullivan of Schuylerville, NY

Joan Sullivan has been knitting sweaters for "Bear Hugs" since the project began.  Recently she reached a milestone... 2,500 hand knit sweaters with matching hats!  Joan visited Double H Ranch in Lake Luzerne, NY, where Hollie Vanderzee, Founder of Bridging People and Places, acknowledged Joan's outstanding volunteer service and presented her with a "Bear Hugs" bag.  Double H serves children with serious and life-threatening illnesses.  Most of the sweaters knit by Joan have dressed the Bear Hugs teddy bears given to Double H campers.

Eileen Minder, Gansevoort, NY

Eileen Minder has been involved since summer 2000.  She first learned of the "Bear Hugs" project while volunteering at Double H Ranch and became involved by knitting sweaters and enlisting her friends and family to do the same.

Things have certainly changed!  Eileen is the past President of Bridging People and Places and continues to be an active and productive member of our Board of Directors.  Eileen has has given from her heart her time, talent, and creativity to the organization. 


Esperance Chiropractic  Fundraiser, Dr. and Mrs. David Ionta

Dr. David Ionta and his wife, Kym, have sponsored many Bridging People and Places Christmas fundraisers in their Esperance Chiropractic office.  Through the wonderful generosity of the Iontas and their patients, they raised over $1,000 each year.  Many of the bears that were purchased were donated back to Bridging People and Places to be given to campers at Double H Ranch.  In addition, the Iontas donated $5 from each patient seen on the day of the fundraiser.

Sandy Hennel and The Burnt Hills United Methodist Church Quilters

Sandy Hennel organized a group from the Burnt Hills United Methodist Church who created 14 beautiful quilts for the beds at Double H Ranch.  One of their members also hand quilted a number of wall hangings for the camp.  Some of the group members  are shown here presenting one of their quilts to Hollie Vanderzee while touring "The Ranch."

Betty Cleveland and Blanche Hart

Betty Cleveland  and Blanche Hart volunteered with Bridging People and Places since our projects first began.  Not only have they knit hundreds of sweaters... they've sold bears wherever they've gone, fundraised, created patterns, networked with other organizations, and recruited many volunteers to help with our projects.  Blanche passed away in 2007; she is greatly missed by the many people she touched during her lifetime.
Blanch Hart and Betty Cleveland

Mary Brandt

Mary Brandt, through the NOVA Society at Knowles Atomic Power Lab, has sponsored a project selling "Bear Hugs" for many years.  Mary's mother, Blanche Hart, was also a very active and valued volunteer with Bridging People and Places.  Blanche organized the knitting and dressing of all the bears that went to Mary for the KAPL sales.  This made the project an incredible loving and intergenerational affair.  Mary's aunt, Mary Lou Harris, has also been actively involved recruiting knitters for  bears sweaters for many years.

In addition to selling bears, Mary has submitted numerous KAPL grant applications, each in excess of $1,000, on our behalf.  When asked what motivates her to volunteer, Mary offered the following thoughts: "I find great satisfaction in helping others.  The most important thing is the love one gives to make someone else happy.  Kids have so much to share with us, their thoughts, their laughter, their experiences.  I do this because I can... and because I love to do it."

Nikki DiBenedetto, White Plains, NY

Nikki DiBenedetto has raised over $3,000 through selling our bears.  Nikki allocates her fund raising efforts to the "Bear Hugs" that go to campers at Double H Ranch.  Why does she do it?  In her words, "I like to volunteer because I find it inspiring!  I've seen the sparkle in the campers' eyes after they've gotten a "Bear Hug" on the last night of camp.  It's an incredible feeling to know that you've been part of such a wonderful thing!" In addition to selling bears, Nikki has enlisted the help of her family, friends, and local community groups in knitting sweaters for the bears.

Nikki is an awe inspiring young woman.  In 1993 she was diagnosed  with a malignant brain tumor.  From 1993-1999 she was a camper at "The Ranch."  She then returned to camp for three more summers as a counselor.  Nikki currently attends college part time and works at a school in Westchester County for children with disabilities.

Bob Bauman, Acton, Maine

Bob Bauman, a nuclear engineer with no experience in Website development, took on the monumental task of building the Website for Bridging People and Places.  Applying his engineering skills: process orientation,  organization, and ability to intently focus his attention he began the arduous process.  Bob taught himself the software program and developed the structural format for the Website.  Many hours of painstaking labor, debugging sessions, and revisions later, the Website was complete.  We are very grateful for his efforts on our behalf.

Bob has many talents.  He is an amateur ceramicist and the coordinator of our ceramic Angel Urn Project for the Mason and Megan Program.  Bob has made the majority of the urns to date.

Iva Durkee, Hoosick Falls, NY

Iva's son and his wife adopted four boys with disabilities.  As they grew, three of the boys, as well as their own son, attended Double H Ranch.

In Iva's words: "This was such a wonderful experience for the children.  I always wished there was some small way I could repay  all the love and kindness shown to my grandsons.    I heard the children at camp were given a teddy bear with a hand knitted sweater as a gift.  I wished I could obtain the knitting directions for these sweaters, I could knit and this was something I could do to help... but who would I contact?  That summer I was at the County Fair and there, in the 4-H building, were the directions!  I was thrilled!"  A local group of 4-H children, the Country Clovers, had raised money for the "Bear Hugs" project at Double H and used their project as a display at the fair.

Iva continued, "Soon friends and church members discovered what I was doing and began to knit also.  Our group has knit and dressed hundreds of "Bear Hugs" to go to camp: 2002-120; 2003-132; 2004-200.)  It has become one of our missions, we all love doing it and it uses up our leftover yarn.  My Mom always said,  'Many hands make light work.'  She was right, and I hope we will be able to continue for many years to come."

Sandy Schwartz, Ceramic Artist

Sandy Schwartz has been creating ceramic pieces for about 20 years.  She began studying at Skidmore College and now enjoys her own studio, at home, near Saratoga Lake.  Sandy creates both functional and decorative pieces using a variety of glazes, textures, forms, and designs that are ultimately high fired in a gas kiln. 

Sandy has generously volunteered her time, talent, and kiln to fire infant urns for the Mason and Megan Program.  The urns are given to hospital Perinatal Loss and Bereavement Programs as gifts for parents who have lost an infant.

Bill Hillebrandt, Computer Consultant, Gansevoort, NY

Bill Hillebrandt has donated many hours of his computer expertise, from helping set up new applications to resolving the many computer problems that have occurred.  Bill's help with getting the Website uploaded and working through some pesky problems with support software has been invaluable.  His donation of his time and support has allowed us to use funds we would otherwise have had to pay for computer technical support to directly pay for the many charitable projects we do. 

Donna Bamond

Donna Bamond has been working with "Bear Hugs" since she first saw the bears at Double H Ranch.  Donna and two of her friends volunteer for a week every summer at Double H.  In her words, "I wish everyone could experience the joy of being with these courageous children.  My week at camp has been the most rewarding thing I've done in my retirement.  If I can help "Bear Hugs" by spreading the word, knowing all of the fun it has given to the people who knit sweaters, you can count on me to continue doing my part!" 

Gertrude Waldron

Sweaters from all over the United States arrive at my doorstep.  Often, the people who knit the sweaters share with me their stories and what has motivated them to volunteer their time.   I love it when that happens.  Here is one them.

A woman named Gertrude Waldron sends sweaters from her home in California.  Her cousin, a volunteer with Bridging People and Places and also at Double H, sent the sweater pattern to her.  A note arrived with her sweaters this summer saying she “knits love into every stitch for these dear children.”  Gertrude is a senior citizen with severe arthritis and pins in many of her fingers.  The knitting has become a great form of physical therapy for her hands as well as nourishment for her heart.

Dorothy Conner

Dorothy Conner is retired, home bound, and living in senior housing.  She has been making sweaters for the bears that go to Double H Ranch for several years.  She told us, "I was so happy when I found this project.  It makes me feel good.  I do it out of love for the people who will receive the bear.  God gives us so little time here, it's up to us to make the best of it."  An added note: Dorothy has had spinal surgery which permits her to sit for only 20 minutes at a time.  She has discovered a way that allows her to crochet while lying down.

Adelaide Winfree                        

                            by Hollie Vanderzee





Adelaide Winfree had a gentle way of always looking for the positive in life.  As her hospice volunteer, I had the good fortune of sharing many hours with her.  Knowing she had a special place in her heart for children, I began to talk with her about a volunteer project that sent teddy bears to 6- to 16-year-old campers at the Double H Ranch.  Adelaide soon became very involved in this magical camp for incredibly brave children with serious and life-threatening illnesses.  She lovingly fluffed, trimmed, tagged and placed hand-knit sweaters on more than 120 of the 1,000 bears during the summer of 1999.  Adelaide derived much pleasure from filling those bears with her positive energy and love.

Just the mention of Bears for Double H Ranch would bring a twinkle to her eye and a smile to her face.  She often would say that the project "brought the world to her" and gave a renewed sense of purpose in her life.  She began to watch and listen for news of the camp on television and in the papers.  Our visits always included a report on what she had seen, read, or heard about Double H during the week.  Adelaide was so pleased to have a new and interesting topic of conversation to share with her family.

Adelaide moved on to another place in March of 2000.  I treasure the time I spent with her and will always remember her with love.  Those special campers who received the bears filled with Adelaide’s love now have an angel watching over them.

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