Local Woman Makes Bags for Patients with Walkers at UPMC Passavant

By: Mattie Winowitch

Sue Mascia, 77, has sewn bags for patients in the inpatient rehabilitation unit at UPMC Passavant for the past four years. Specifically, the bags Mascia sews are meant for patients who need to use a walker but also want to take items like phones and books with them. The patients can hang the bags on their walkers, allowing them to have hands-free convenience while on the go.

This bag-making program originally started five years ago as an outreach volunteer project within Mascia’s church, North Park Baptist Church. When the sewing project first began, there were several women helping to make bags and blankets, but today, Mascia does it all by herself.

“I’m the only one who has kept it up,” she said. “It’s something I really enjoy doing.”

Mascia has been sewing for more than 45 years, and she also does clothing alterations on the side as a small business. Because of her expert sewing skills, Mascia said making the bags has been a great outlet for her.

“I have a pattern, I cut it out, I put interfacing fabric in it, I stitch it, and that’s all there really is to it,” she said.

Every two months, Mascia brings 10 bags to UPMC Passavant’s volunteer office, and from there, the bags are transported to the rehabilitation center. For Danielle Berkey, an occupational therapist at UPMC Passavant, the impact these bags have on the recipients is clear from the moment they are handed out.

“We make sure to give bags to every patient who goes home with a walker,” Berkey said. “They are always so excited and thankful.”

While Mascia doesn’t get to see this reaction directly, she said she does get a lot of feedback from the patients themselves. In each bag she makes, she slides in a small flyer with the church’s address, as well as a note wishing the recipient well. In response to this, Mascia has received almost 30 letters and cards in the mail, thanking her for her gift.

“People have been so appreciative of the bags I make,” Mascia said. “It really makes me feel wonderful; it makes me want to keep going.”

Each bag is handmade by Mascia using cotton and polyester. Anyone who would like to donate material for the bags can take it to the volunteer office at UPMC Passavant, or call Diane Kolling at 412-748-6571 for more information.