Letter From Lois, May 2022

A bit of From the Heart History:

In 2001, before our organization even had a name, Bertha Rolfe was a part of us. As I sat as a volunteer in the MCV library downtown, knitting with Tiffany Andrews, Bertha would stop by to chat. Little by little she learned of what we were doing and at times would suggest to us specific patients in need of chemo hats.

As months, then years went by, Massey Cancer opened the Stony Point office and I split my knitting time between the 2 locations. It was there I met Bertha’s husband, Norman.

Bertha and Norman were both concerned with, as yarn donations began to take over my home, the lack of a facility for what I had just named “From the Heart.”

This topic was always front and center in Norman’s mind. He was determined to find us a home base and I don’t remember ever being in a hospital meeting with him when he didn’t make sure everyone in the room was made aware of our situation.

In late fall 2004 Bertha called me…she was a very quiet lady, but you could always see in her eyes she was a problem solver. She told me she had a Board of Directors meeting at the VCU/MCV hospital that evening which Hank Wilton was sure to attend. Surprised at her comment I told my volunteer director, Polly Cole of Betha’s mention of Mr. Wilton. She just smiled and commented that something was bound to happen!

About 9:00 that evening I received a phone call from Bertha. She just said I was to go to Mr. Wilton’s office the next morning and pick up the keys to the new From the Heart shop! Early next morning Rinne Abbitt and I picked up those treasured keys and headed out Patterson Avenue to check it out. What a shock! It was tiny, dirty, grimy, and covered with cobwebs but looked like heaven to us. To shorten this a bit…Gail Patrick, Matilde Woolcott, Rinne and so many others dug in and scrubbed, painted, and polished that place on Starling Drive until it didn’t resemble at all the place we had first tackled.

We packed yarn from my house (it took hours and many trips with my van). We put together shelving that had been donated by Dana with Got Yarn. We filled the cubbies to overflowing. We were so, so thrilled to finally have a home!

We weren’t at that location long, only 5 weeks, just long enough to witness a vehicle plow through our neighbor’s front window, just a few feet away, on the other side of our adjoining wall!

Once we were clean, yarn in cubbies, everything looking wonderful, I invited Bertha to come visit. She did. She wasn’t there long. Her only comment “this is certainly small.”  With that she was gone. The very next morning a Wilton agent came in, handed me a set of keys, told us that men and trucks would be there the next morning to move us to our new location…1114 Westbriar Drive!

That all happened in 2005. In early April 2022 we lost Berta. She has joined Norman, who passed away a number of years prior. We’ve lost them both, but their mark will forever be on From the Heart. I feel our “shop” is their legacy.