Concord Monitor – Hometown Hero: Hats off to this Penacook woman, a craft enthusiast whose artistic and altruistic nature has benefited those with serious illnesses

Nancy Peperissa’s secrets to helping people are cotton and rice, two items she uses to create items with others in mind.

She crochets cotton to make soft skull caps for chemotherapy patients. The rice she inserts into a doll’s belly gives it weight, making it feel firmer to embrace. Both will be donated to the Concord Hospital Payson Center.

With such an altruistic background, it’s no wonder Peggy Lynch, a friend and neighbor of 40 years, chose Peperissa as a Hometown Hero.

“I started making (hats) before I knew anyone with cancer,” Peperissa said. “I would give most of it to the Payson Center and give some away. If one of my hats can put a smile on someone’s face undergoing chemotherapy, it will make it all worthwhile.”

She was born in Vermont and has lived in Penacook for 45 years. She worked in the cafeteria at Penacook Elementary before retiring six years ago. Her husband, also retired, worked in IT at Associated Grocers in New England.

Her giving nature continues elsewhere: Peperissa is the volunteer food bank director at the United Church of Penacook.

“We help provide food once a week,” Peperissa said. “I make sure those volunteers are there and if someone can’t come, they call me. I love it.”

She saw hats for cancer patients at Concord Hospital about a decade ago and decided to contribute. Peperissa said she has made about 570 caps, including the 20 she recently made while on vacation in Arizona.

She has walked with cancer patients in the annual 5-mile Rock ‘N Race benefiting Concord Hospital Payson Center.

Peperissa can crochet a new hat anywhere, like when she went to the hospital ten years ago while her best friend was being treated for breast cancer.

“I hooked up in the lobby while I waited for her,” Peperissa said. “I can do it on a plane or in a car.”

Her friend has since been given a clean bill of health. Any cancer patients who experience the magic that Peperissa has to offer, including her beloved crafts, would be hard-pressed not to feel better.

Her caps usually have bright colors such as pink and turquoise. As for the dolls, Peperissa said heavier dolls translate to safety and calmness for dementia patients. She has earned 400 so far.

“You take a stuffed animal and then you open its belly, take the stuff out and make a bag to fill the rice in,” she said. Then she puts the rice back in the doll. It calms the recipients because it is heavier and feels like an animal, a pet.

“They (dolls) all make me smile when you put them back together with rice in the bag,” she said

The need for both items can arise from challenging circumstances, and Peperissa imagined a world that would not need them, a world without these diseases.

“My goal,” Peperissa said, “is for all these cancer patients to say to me, ‘We don’t need any more hats.’ ”

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