‘Dump bags’ help wounded soldiers during recuperation

Judy Cable, Mary Dewerff and Joe Destefani (from left) display a “Dump Bag” designed for recuperating soldiers returning home from the war on terror. Photo/John Munford.

Local group hoping for funds to make more bags at request of PTC’s Lt. Dan Berschinski

Mary Dewerff of Peachtree City didn’t intend for her neighborly deed to turn into such a big production.

Months ago, she sewed a custom bag for Army Lt. Dan Berschinski to use as he recovered from severe injuries sustained in an explosion while patrolling in Afghanistan as part of the global war on terror. It attaches to his hospital bed so he can keep his iPod, phone, TV remote and a pen in the same place, along with a magazine or book.

It became such a hit with Berschinski and the staff at Walter Reed Medical Center that Berschinski called Dewerff for a personal thank you ... and a request:

“Can you make some more?”

Dewerff realized she needed to mobilize some sewing troops of her own. She enlisted the aid of the Atlanta Sewing Guild and local friends Judy Cable and Joe Destefani, whom she calls her “advisory board.”

“I knew I could make a few more but if I drafted help we could make lots of them,” DeWerff said.

Supplies were purchased to assemble kits so the Dump Bag could be produced by a number of people, including volunteers from ASG and the Southern Crescent Quilt Guild.

In early December, 44 such bags were sent to the Red Cross office at Walter Reed so they could be distributed to recovering troops, with priorities going to those on the amputee ward. Another delivery of 50 bags went to Walter Reed in early March.

Part of the bag’s beauty is its versatility: it can be moved from the bed to a walker, a wheelchair or even crutches. It has a large center area so items such as magazines and books can be conveniently “dropped” in, and there are also outer pockets with room for a phone, iPod and also a pen or two.

The Dump Bag is relatively inexpensive, fashioned from about $5 in materials including plastic tubing and fabric. Once one is accustomed to the pattern, it takes about an hour to produce one bag, Dewerff said.

The camouflage patterns were a big hit with the troops, but several are being designed with a softer touch for female patients as well, Dewerff said.

As the project began to take hold, Dewerff found herself visiting Miles Ace Hardware Store quite a bit for the plastic tubing. The first time they gave her a great discount and the second time they doubled her order and gave it to her free of charge.

Volunteers sewing the bags have also donated extra materials such as quilt batting and buttons, Dewerff said.

The bag pattern and instructions are available for download in a PDF format at the Atlanta Sewing Guild’s website: asgatlanta.org. To download the instructions, click on the photo for “Walter Reed Bags.”

To drum up support, Dump Bag Project members have been making appearances at local groups including the Delta Pilots group and also local veterans groups.

The response has been “overwhelming,” Dewerff said.

“So positive,” Cable added.

And it all began with a simple good deed for a neighbor in need. The Berschinskis and Dewerffs are across-the-street neighbors. Lt. Dan graduated from McIntosh with Dewerff’s daughter, Beth.

For more information, email dumpbagproject@bellsouth.net or search for “Dump Bag Project” on Facebook.

To vote for the project, visit http://www.refresheverything.com/dumpbagproject

Git Real
Git Real's picture
Joined: 05/17/2006
Ahhhh found the thumbs up button.

Way to go Mary. You certainly deserve a thumbs up.