ESCANABA - The sparkling clean baby dolls were rolling out almost in assembly line fashion as a group of ladies from North Woods Assisted Living in Escanaba gathered together to clean up a collection of the toys that were later donated to the Marine Corps League.
"Every month the residents do a project to give back to the community," said Kim Lombardi, Meaningful Pursuits coordinator for the facility. "The dolls were donated by my niece, Brittney DeMars. Our resident, Katherine Paine, along with Laurence and Irene St. Martin, arranged for the dolls to go to the Marine Corps League."
"Larry's an ex-marine and so is Katherine, so she called me up to see if we wanted to come and help," said Irene. "The ladies washed the face and hands of the dolls. Some of the dolls had cloth bodies so the ladies did their best to clean them, too."
Residents of North Woods Assisted Living in Escanaba gathered to reminisce about the doll cleaning project they offered to help with to benefit the Marine Corps League. Pictured are: from left, Mary Pursol, Katherine Paine, Helen Sprague, Ardith Devanney, Senior Companion Lynn Weissert (standing), Joyce Micenski, Dorothy Hansen, and Sophia Lindgren. (Daily Press photo by Dorothy McKnight)
According to Irene, some of the dolls got a shampoo and a new haircut or style at the hands of the volunteers. The clothing on the dolls was washed and ironed and put back on the dolls. If something needed a button, it was replaced.
"They really did a good job," Irene said. "I was surprised at how wonderful those dolls looked when they got done. It was fun and all for a good cause."
Katherine said most of the dolls were in "prime condition" when they arrived at North Woods.
"By the time we got through with them, they were all just darling."
North Woods resident, Sophia Lindgren, said she appreciated the opportunity to help with the doll-cleaning project.
"We washed them and washed them until they looked nice," she said.
Resident Helen Sprague said she appreciated the opportunity to help with the project.
"It gave me something to do and I enjoyed it," she said. "It was nice that they (dolls) were donated. If people have toys, why the heck don't they give them out if nobody's using them? Why keep them?"
Even non-residents got into the spirit of the project. Senior Companion Lynn Weissert worked on the project, as well as Melissa Jenshak, a North Woods staffer.
A few pieces of doll furniture were also donated to the cause and Irene, with some help from her husband, Larry, was put to work cleaning up a pink plastic baby bed.
"I just wished I had a toothbrush to clean really good down in the corners but I think we did alright," she said.
Working on the project gave some of the volunteers a time to reflect on their own childhood and the types of dolls they, themselves, owned.
Lindgren recalls never having a doll - even as a Christmas or birthday gift - until she bought one herself.
"It was a little bitty celluloid doll that I bought for a nickel," she said. "It had arms and legs that moved. I sewed clothes for it all by hand."
By contrast, volunteer Dorothy Hansen said she had a large assortment of dolls as a child.
"I had a huge room just loaded with them," she said. "I remember having big stand-up dolls that were just beautiful. I had them for a long time and people wanted to buy them from me but I wouldn't sell them. Why would I sell them? They were a joy to me. I eventually donated them to St. Vincent de Paul."
A Shirley Temple doll was a favorite toy for Ardith Devanney.
"I got it when I was about 8 or 10 and had it for years before I gave it to Goodwill," she said. "I loved her curly hair because I didn't have curly hair myself."
Katherine said she always enjoyed the dolls she had as a youngster.
"They were mostly baby dolls and I'd take them to bed with me and I'd say goodnight to every one of them. I remember once getting a doll with tight curly hair for Christmas. I remember when I opened it up, I hugged her."
Joyce Micenski said she received many dolls in her childhood.
"I got dolls for Christmas and my birthday," she said. "My aunts and uncles also sent me dolls to play with."
Mary Pursol's love of dolls carried well into her adult years. One of her favorite hobbies is making rag dolls.
Lombardi said the project went so well they decided to clean up a second round of dolls that were given to them.
"I thought the project was great for them," she said. "They had a ball."
When their project was completed, all the women said they enjoyed seeing all the dolls lined up after they went through their makeovers.
"They really looked nice," Katherine said. "And we really appreciated the opportunity to do it."