SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) — After a 30-year career in the financial world, a North Bay woman is turning her acute attention to detail to a very different project, helping the most vulnerable.

The hum of a sewing machine filled Caroline Archer’s dining room as she worked a tiny scrap of material under the needle. The table was piled high with colorful buttons and trim.

“I’ve given up spreadsheets and performance reports and testing results and all of that,” she said, referring to her long career in the financial world. “(I’m) now focusing on something that really makes my heart feel good.”

What makes her heart feel good is making doll clothes — exquisite, miniature outfits for dolls she buys and gives to hospitals for children facing serious illnesses.

“I think they bring creativity, I think they bring warmth, and the main thing I think they bring is a friend,” Archer said. “It’s that friend in the middle of the night they can talk to when they’re hurting or if they’re scared.”

Archer got the idea two years ago when she retired and saw the joy her creations gave her granddaughters. But it was her mother who really inspired her.

“My mom was the role model. She cut up her wedding dress during World War II and made doll clothes for all the children in the neighborhood when they couldn’t buy toys,” Archer remembered.

Archer buys dolls wholesale. For infant dolls, she makes little sleeping sacks and caps. The larger dolls get ten outfits. Each gift box for a child includes a canvas bag, so patients can carry their dolls with them, whether it’s to chemo treatments or scans.

With the help of friends and a local knitting shop, Archer has been able to give almost 100 dolls and nearly 1,000 outfits to both Lucille Packard Hospital at Stanford and Children’s Hospital Oakland.

Suzanne Berkes is a Child Life Specialist at Children’s Hospital. She said the dolls encourage patients to play, and helps them cope.

“There is thread and there is material and there are buttons, but really the biggest element in there is a big loving heart who is willing to do such intricate work and to benefit kids who are in a huge state of crisis,” said Berkes. “These bring smiles to these kids’ faces.”

And while Archer herself never meets the children who get her dolls, she is content just knowing she’s doing something to help.

“This is just a little labor of love,” she said.

So for sharing her love and craftsmanship with children in crisis, this weeks Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Caroline Archer.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

  1. Kat jaeger says:

    What an inspiring story and a great example of how we can all do worthwhile things in our lives

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