A Clive mother helped line up 40 volunteers to compile scrapbooks this month for a woman diagnosed with terminal cancer.
As Lori Jackson of Altoona grappled with her diagnosis, she thought of the thousands of photos and memorabilia of her three children she had yet to put into scrapbooks.
Leaders of her church, Grace Church in Des Moines, asked congregation member Amber Gustafson of Ankeny to help Jackson's family. Gustafson is a Creative Memories scrapbooking consultant.
Then Monica Artino of Clive, whose children attend Des Moines Christian School with Jackson's three children, stepped in to help, too.
"Everyone wanted to do something for her. Lori is such a 'doer' and is very involved," Artino said. "The first thing you think of is to take meals to the family, but we wanted to do something that was her heartbeat, something she really wanted. We saw on her Web site at CaringBridge (www.caringbridge.org) that she wanted help with her scrapbooks."
Artino called Des Moines Christian School to secure a room for people to work in, finding donations of food and people to pitch in.
"I knew that the number of people to help would be 40. I don't know why, but I just knew it, and we ended up with exactly 40 people," Artino said. "My local Hy-Vee donated money for whatever food or supplies we needed. Then Shane's, a new barbecue place, donated 40 full meals for the workers."
Even though Artino has only done two pages in her oldest daughter's scrapbook and admits to not being a "big scrapbooker," she knew she could help organize the effort behind the scenes. She teamed up with Gustafson to make the scrapbooking happen. After putting the word out about the project, Artino said she received many e-mails, at least one-fourth of them coming from strangers who just wanted to help.
Gustafson said Jackson's family had purchased some scrapbooking materials to get things rolling, but relatives weren't sure where to begin.
"It really was a total miracle. We ended up with eight books completed in the end for Lori and her family. That first night we worked from 3 p.m. to midnight, with some people never having scrapbooked before, but wanted to just help," Gustafson said. "Another Creative Memories consultant whose kids attend Des Moines Christian helped us get a plan together and this group of 40 wonderful women took 10,000 prints and 5,000 pieces of memorabilia and got everything organized."
Gustafson said the women probably worked from 80 to 100 hours earlier this month.
"It was a huge task, getting everything sorted and then making the pages," she said. "We had several group work sessions, then some women took pages home to work on. At the same time we were working on these, according to Lori's online journal, she had some really good days. I want to think that this took a load off Lori's mind and helped lift her spirits."
While Jackson's wish to have her scrapbooks completed was fulfilled, the volunteers unknowingly created another legacy.
"God provided everything for us, from the food to the workers to the supplies. In fact, we ended up with a huge amount of leftover supplies, so several of us who participated in this decided to form a group that would serve as a resource for hospices and hospitals who have patients in a similar situation," Gustafson said.
"We would love to continue doing this for families with a terminally ill loved one on a donation basis as a way to give back. I've heard it said that when someone dies, a library burns down, because of all the stories and memories that perish with that person. If we can help create a tangible reminder of that person, we'd like to do it."