Cuddles for Cuties is an amazing program that provides dolls to kids. These dolls have been distributed to police and fire departments, emergency rooms, blood draw facilities, social workers, and so many more. Cuddles for Cuties originally began as a program called Dolls for Dolls. Dolls for Dolls was a family business run by Evelyn Avallone. Dolls for Dolls ran in 4 different communities and were able to distribute hundreds of dolls to comfort children every year. Evelyn eventually passed down the program and it became Cuddles for Cuties, sponsored by the MVCSC’s AmeriCorps Seniors RSVP Program. It now resides at the North Andover Senior Center and Haverhill Senior Center. In passing on the program, amazing RSVP volunteers have been able to lead the way in continuing Evelyn’s mission. Billy Richter was one of the awesome Cuddles coordinators who was put up to the task. The coordinator is in charge of making sure everything runs smoothly, all materials are secured, and making sure the dolls look fabulous for the kids to enjoy. Now, Vivian Aziz heads the coordinator position. There are even a few volunteers in the program who have been involved since Evelyn’s time, almost 20 + years! They noted that the dolls are still relatively the same as what was made when the program first started. The dolls are decorated in dresses, capes, sports uniforms, and more. They each get a beautiful face from one of the volunteers. A lot of effort goes into making the dolls. The artist creating the face actually picks out the outfit before creating the face to make sure the personalities of the dolls match their outfit. Then the dolls all receive a name and a nice message. Most of the volunteers noted naming their dolls after their grandchildren and gave them dolls as well. One volunteer noted that her grandson, who is now graduating college, received a Cuddles Doll after getting his tonsils removed at Lawrence General Hospital and knew it came from his grandma. He couldn't wait to show it to her, and how happy he was to receive the Cuddles Doll. The volunteers often receive thank you notes from the places they donate all of the dolls to. Another volunteer noted her favorite memory is to deliver the dolls to a social worker in West Boxford, because the children are often there and get so excited to see the delivery. While it is great to make a difference, the volunteers also love the social aspect. They all get together for a couple hours every week and do something they enjoy together. They all look forward to it. Especially now more than ever, it is important to do things you enjoy with people you care about. This activity has now expanded in Haverhill to include making bears, baby booties, comfort shawls, and more. If you would like to get involved with the Cuddles program and join this awesome group of volunteers, contact us. The Cuddles group is also always accepting donations for markers, fabrics, sewing supplies, and anything that can help them continue making dolls for the kids.
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