Group helps the area’s youngest residents.

January 12, 2019

Lee’shya Dukes of Idlewild gets help from Michelle Schoon, RN placing one of her twins in her new car seat specially designed for premature infants. The car seats were donated by the Spectrum Health Foundation Ludington Hospital with funds donated by the Mason County TWIG.

Group helps the area’s youngest residents.


LUDINGTON — Lee’shya and Jamel Dukes received several blessings in late 2018. The Idlewild parents of fraternal twin daughters that were born early in December at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital were grateful that their daughters were born healthy and without complications, despite being premature at 35 weeks gestation. The twins, Nariyah and Nyomi Dukes, were delivered on Dec. 5, 2018 by Dr. Margaret Gustafson. Nariyah was delivered first, at 5:37 p.m., followed by Nyomi at 5:38 p.m. Nariyah weighed 4 lbs, 4 oz. and was 17.25 inches, while Nyomi weighed 4 lbs, 11 oz. and was 18 inches. They were the two biggest blessings for Lee’shya and Jamel.

  Another blessing was a gift the parents received from the Spectrum Health Foundation Ludington Hospital, funded by the Together We Inspire Generosity (TWIG) auxiliary, of two car seats specially sized for premature babies. “It’s a blessing that wasn’t expected,” Lee’shya said. “This helps out—big time—because we don’t have to buy new car seats. We weren’t expecting the girls to be born premature, so we already had a couple of car seats for them. But with them being so little, the car seats weren’t the right size.”

  The local TWIG was the idea of Julie Snyder, an Epworth resident who lives in Ludington during the summer and in North Carolina during the winter. Snyder said she was first invited to be part of a TWIG group in Columbus, Ohio when her children were very young. At that time, she learned a bit about the group’s history and how it got its name.

  “The concept of TWIG began in 1887 in Rochester, NY by a group that met together weekly to sew for the local hospital,” said Snyder. “The group decided that they weren’t really large enough to be called a branch of anything, so they called themselves a ‘TWIG.’ Soon other TWIGs formed, with ladies sewing and doing other projects, with an annual bazaar set up to showcase and sell their work. As people moved away from Rochester, they took the idea with them and started their own TWIG groups in other cities.

  “That’s how I initially got involved in Columbus,” Snyder said. “The TWIG I joined made Christmas tree ornaments, which we sold at our own annual bazaar. All of the proceeds went to Columbus Children’s Hospital. Belonging to the TWIG meant that we received information about the hospital. We were proud of it and wanted it to be a viable, positive entity in our community because we knew that we’d all have need of it sooner or later. We had a vested interest in helping serve its patients, who were often children of our friends and neighbors. The Columbus TWIG was started nearly 100 years ago, and has contributed $30 million to the children’s hospital there. That’s quite a legacy of generosity, don’t you think?”

  Valerie Berrett, of Ludington has served as second vice president and special projects chairperson of the Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital Volunteer Board from 2012 to 2014. She is friends with Snyder and was intrigued with the idea of how volunteering comes in many forms.

  “I volunteered for years at Memorial Medical Center as it transitioned to become Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital,” said Berrett. “Our volunteer board put on many different fundraisers to ultimately help area patients. I always liked the idea of helping those in need. Doing projects for those with medical challenges seemed like a great cause to support because at some time or other, all of us have those challenges.”

After hearing Snyder talk about the TWIG concept, the two enlisted others who had special talents, and the Mason County TWIG was formed. Each of the lead members, currently consisting of Tara Autrey, Mary Hoffman, and Zelal Umran, along with Berrett and Snyder, are in charge of developing and making one or more products and enlisting members to join them.

The groups then decide how often to meet and how best to work on their ideas, culminating in an end-of-year holiday bazaar, which last year was held October 13, 2018 at the United Methodist Church in Ludington. The bazaar featured handmade items such as mosaic flower pots, birdhouses, pillows, scarves, jewelry, sweets, knitted items, wine covers and baby quilts.

From this, $5,250 was donated to the hospital to be used to purchase car seats for qualifying families, newborn sleep sacks for all infants born at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital and books to support the Reach Out And Read program at the Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital Pediatrics office.

  “I want to thank the entire group of TWIG members for stepping up to support our local patients and caring about our community hospital,” said Kaley Petersen, director of Foundation and Community Services at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital. “I want to give a special thanks to Julie Snyder for bringing this concept to fruition and starting something very special.”

  Debbie Nellis, volunteer coordinator at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital said that there are approximately 40 people involved in the TWIG groups currently and more are always welcome. “If anyone has a special talent such as painting, cooking, knitting, etc., and they’d like to use that talent to help patients of the hospital, I will be happy to help them get started.” 

  Nellis can be reached at 231.843.3633 or .

Founders of the Mason County TWIG present a check for $5,250 to members of the Spectrum Health Foundation Ludington Hospital. Left to right: Representing Spectrum Health Foundation Ludington Hospital is Debbie Nellis, volunteer coordinator; Kaley Petersen, foundation and community services director; Scott Smith, Foundation board co-chair; Randy Kelley, president, Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital; Bob Budreau, Foundation board co-chair; and TWIG members Mary Hoffman, Julie Snyder, Valerie Barrett, Zelal Umran and Tara Autrey.