J.C. Ajemian seldom spends his time elbow-deep in dolls. But he had his reasons Thursday.
“This is just one of those things, we’re trying to reach out to the community,” Ajemian said.
A local missions coordinator with Relevant Church, Ajemian joined Comfort Companion founder Janet Tompkins at Lake Wylie Assisted Living for a donation April 7. The church partnered with Comfort Companion to donate 10 dolls designed for Alzheimer’s or dementia patients.
Ajemian met Tompkins through his box company. Tompkins began Comfort Companion less than a year ago in Ennice, N.C.
“I thought this was a great idea for us to donate to something local, and also it’s helping her get her name out there,” Ajemian said.
The dolls come in a half dozen models, from blonde rag doll to beagle. Each is soft and lavender scented, for the calming effects. Each has a pocket where dementia suffers can place personal items.
Tomkins designed the dolls based on her 17 years in speech therapy, where she serves seniors. She sees how difficult dementia can be for both patient and family. She also sees patients with little or no family in the immediate area.
“They’ll sit for long periods of time,” Tompkins said. “They can become agitated and lonely.”
The large dolls have been a hit in the eight months since Comfort Companion began. Especially the front pocket, used for anything from keepsakes to reminders of family.
“A lot of times they would lose track of items, or they would lose track of family members’ names,” Tompkins said. “So it can be a pocket for family photos.”
Janet Murray, who accepted the donation at Lake Wylie Assisted Living on Thursday, planned to look through her roster and see which of her residents might best benefit from the Comfort Companions. She already had an idea of some.
“This is something they’re really going to like,” Murray said.
Tompkins is working on or dreaming up other features for Comfort Companions, from voice recording to styles for military- or sports-themed dolls. She said the dolls make great gifts for people unsure of what, if anything, they should get dementia patient relatives for special occasions.
Not an hour into her trip to Lake Wylie, Tompkins had people asking her about the dolls. She shared their story. People shared theirs. For her company, and the Lake Wylie church, it was affirmation Tompkins was in the right place Thursday.
“It’s touched a lot of people,” she said.