AMSTERDAM – If Broadalbin-Perth junior Zofia Jankowski is assigned an essay about what she did over the summer, it is a story guaranteed to have a happy ending.
The Patriot cheerleader made the most of her time crafting soft, cuddly pillows to be shared with residents at the River Ridge Living Center in Amsterdam, delivering 54 of her huggable gifts Monday afternoon.
“I babysit my brother [Jackson] on Tuesdays and Thursdays, he loves pillows and anything I make,” Zofia Jankowski said. “I was super bored, and I didn’t know what to do.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about the nursing homes because they have been hit really, really hard with this [pandemic]. I thought it would be a good idea.”
Jankowski doesn’t have a relative living at River Ridge, doesn’t have a friend who has someone there, but she found her calling this summer.
She took her earnings during her time at Romana’s Italian Kitchen and set out to get the materials she needed to craft her project.
“I went to JoAnn Fabrics, there was this clearance section and I just did my best to get as much as I could for as little as I could,” she said.
Her design starts out as a 24-inch by 24-inch square, but it is cut down, filled with a pillow insert and closed. The end design is a super soft, colorful blanket of varied fabric designs and to top it off, each pillow has its own matching fringe.
“My favorite is the little turtle,” she said. “It is so cute. I did that one first.”
She also exceeded her original production plan.
“I took the amount of days I had left of summer and I multiplied that by two, so two pillows a day,” she said. “That was 46, then I just ended up doing a few more.”
Not always a crafter, Jankowski knew she had some skills before taking on the project.
“I made [Jackson] a blanket, even before he was even born,” she said. “That is all the experience I had.”
Her mother, Jessica was with her on Monday’s delivery that filled their SUV.
“I was super proud of her,” Jessica Jankowski said. “She’s always a thoughtful girl and I wasn’t surprised.”
With a full industrial laundry cart from the facility and two full boxes on top, the staff was ready to deliver the good news – pillow style.
“The pillows are absolutely beautiful, our residents are definitely going to love them and appreciate them very much,” Jennifer Maybury, Director of Admissions at River Ridge said. “We really can’t thank her enough.
“It’s been so long since they’ve actually been allowed to have a special gift, so they will love it.”
Zofia Jankowski also added her own special touch to each pillow – a safety pinned handwritten message.
“I thought it would brighten up their day a little more, give them a little bit of motivation,” she said.
One of her favorite messages to the residents – Stop, Smile, Breathe. Life is Beautiful.
School began for Jankowski on Monday, a hybrid format to start the school year at Broadalbin-Perth High School.
Her cheerleading is on hold as the Patriot’s football season was moved to March 2021. Now she hopes that at least one other charity event will still take place to fill her time.
“Modeling is a thing that I love to do,” she said. “There is a charity event for St. Jude’s at Azalea’s Dresses [Fashion for Hope]. I love it, so I hope they really do it in January.”
Jankowski brought lots of smiles to the residents at River Ridge Monday afternoon. She was able to look in from the front courtyard through the window to several of the assembled residents who were already clutching their new gift from the teenager.
Even with her mask on, Jankowski’s eyes filled with joy as she waived and clutched her own heart, thanking the residents for their smiles and waves of appreciation.
What a great way to end a summer.