Featured Volunteer Linda Aker
Wow! That one word sums up the June, 2009 Iowa Volunteer, Linda Aker. Everyone knows Linda as Laura’s Mom and as the “List Grandma”. But perhaps you don’t know one of the true powerhouses behind TPP. And that is the fantastic Linda!!!
Laura, Linda’s beloved 26 year old daughter, is the founder and leader of TPP. Linda, her trusty sidekick, was originally her legs and arms and strong back to launch the project and continues to be an amazing dynamo oftentimes behind the scenes. For those new to TPP, the project was born in a time when Laura was suffering health issues and could not go to school or work. With a Mother’s love, Linda suggested that Laura knit baby booties for NICU babies at University Hospital. Laura took that seed of an idea and germinated it into TPP after weeks of investigation and countless postings, communications, press releases and meetings. In the midst of meeting with volunteer offices and speaking to interested knitters in the community, Linda was the muscles, arms and legs during those early days, hauling boxes, making cookies, driving Laura everywhere and watching the project grow its own legs and arms and wings. Linda was amazed by Laura’s confidence and vision as she engaged crowds of eager volunteers. Together, they made (and make) a great team. Linda knew about bake sales and shared her wisdom; Laura learned about board meetings and then held them. The Aker house was a gathering place for people, projects and all sorts of fabrics and materials. Linda mastered sewing blankets and taught Laura the art. Together, they watched their organized work weekends grow beyond all expectations from producing 45 blankets, initially, to more than 200 blankets in a single weekend.
Linda has been a jack of all trades as TPP has grown and flourished. She started as support for Laura, but her role became dramatically enhanced as Laura’s health improved and she returned to school and work. Linda is renowned for her incredible fabric purchases (Get out of her way if there’s a sale at Joann Fabrics!!). While still running the work groups, she is also Work Group Chair, Bereavement Co-Chair, manages a zillion computer tasks (with the help of Computer Programmer Extraordinaire and son Greg), writes thank you note, organizes and delivers donations.
Now a member of TPP’s Board of Directors, Linda took on the NICU “Back-to-Sleep” campaign and is providing the leadership to produce more than 850 sleepers a year. Linda was the brains and the incredible hard work behind development of the prototype pattern for the design and worked closely with many Yahoo group members to get the approved pattern posted. Her purchasing skills have been in the forefront as she buys zippers, fabric, snaps, threads and much more, leading a team of dedicated and talented work group volunteers in donating nearly 400 sleepers so far in 2009.
All of this effort and devotion has had incredible side benefits. Linda has been blessed to spend time with her daughter…countless evenings lately, perched at the kitchen counter cutting out sleepers. In her words the time has been “priceless”. She has the unfailing support of her husband of 32-years, John, a terrific man who lives graciously amidst TPP clutter and chaos. (His response: “Do you hear me complaining?“). Linda is also blessed with son Greg, age 29, (married to Katie Madden) who is a computer programmer in Columbia, Missouri and son Andrew (age 24) who is an electrician (married to Jenna Lassen). The Akers share their Coralville home with Laura’s three cats and welcome the visits from their soon-to-be son-in-law, Brian Pabich, a particular favorite of cat Miller who didn’t like anyone until Brian arrived. And as if all of this isn’t enough, Linda works as a Medical Technologist at Mercy Hospital managing Quality Assurance for the Laboratory.
Linda treasures TPP and she is a treasure to the organization. Through it she has met wonderful crafters and kind, generous people who just want to make a difference. She calls many of them “cherished friends” and she is moved to tears by countless people involved with TPP who ask only to be needed. Many TPP volunteers have experienced hardship or loss and they just want to help the next family facing similar challenges. Linda and Laura share the sentiment that the beauty of TPP is that you can do what you can when you can. With Linda’s loving, skilled and capable devotion helping Laura manage and run TPP, we are all blessed.
December 22, 2014
Iowa Neonatal Intensive Care Units