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Local women deliver first Memory Companions to Crossroads residents

Adorable dolls, purring kittens and barking puppies bring smiles to memory care patients at Crossroads Care Center in Worthington on Thursday.

WORTHINGTON — A little brown-eyed boy accompanied by a colorful dinosaur. A gray tabby cat that purrs and stretches to lick her paw. A bandana-clad puppy who blinks, barks and beams with adorableness.

These were the gifts presented to women and men in the memory care unit of Crossroads Care Center Thursday morning in Worthington.

Called Memory Companions, the babies and pets — 15 in all — were matched with specific residents by Crossroads’ Social Services Coordinator and Activity Director Anita Miller. Some of the companions featured sounds and movement, others were stationary, and all are already much loved by the individuals who received them.

“I think (these) will help with calming them down, and they help with anxiety,” said Miller of the companions.

Prior to Thursday’s delivery, the center had three baby dolls that were often in the arms of memory care patients who snuggled with them, gave them kisses and changed their clothes, she said.

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The Memory Companions donation was spearheaded by a trio of local women, Pat Grimmius, Kathy Gallagher and Susanne Murphy. It was Grimmius who had the idea after learning of a similar project in another state. She recruited Gallagher, whose late husband, Norm, had Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia; and Murphy, whose mother has Alzheimer’s and is in a care center in Illinois. All three are members of First United Methodist Church in Worthington.

As detailed a November 2019 interview with The Globe, they launched a fundraising campaign to purchase the Memory Companions, which range in price from $40 to $140 each. From that campaign, the 15 dolls and pets were purchased. While most went to residents at Crossroads, two were also presented to the Sunset Hospice Cottage in Worthington.

Now, with some money still in the account, Grimmius said the fundraising continues so they can expand the program to more residents at Crossroads, as well as those who reside in memory care units in both Adrian and Ellsworth.

“After that, we’d like to go to the Veterans Home in Luverne,” Grimmius said, noting that she has applied for a grant to help fund the purchases as well, and hopes to hear of its success in February.

“We’ve been really so happy with the donations we have received,” she added.

Thursday was the first presentation of Memory Companions, and based on the reaction of the residents at Crossroads Care Center, the project is a worthwhile endeavor.

“It was so very cool,” Grimmius said. “I think we got as much heartwarming joy out of it as they did.”

Donations for Memory Companions may be sent to First United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 668, Worthington 56187. Checks should be made payable to First United Methodist Church with “Memory Companions” written on the subject line.

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Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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