Loving Hands

How one team member’s hobby turned into a labor of love to benefit Alzheimer’s patients

February 26, 2020
Heartfelt Handiwork -- Here's a photo collage that showcases Peace-Devanzo's contributions to Alice's Embrace, including a letter she wrote to the nonprofit. "Alzheimer's takes so many things," she writes. "But it can't take everyone's unique personality. It will continue to shine through and even twinkle."

Giving truly does invigorate the soul of the giver. 
Just ask Mary Peace-DeVanzo.

For the past two years, Peace-DeVanzo has been spreading love and comfort to Alzheimer’s patients, one blanket at a time.

“They’re a personal touch that make people feel warm - that you’re not alone,” says the vehicle field sales administrator at Central Atlantic Toyota in Glen Burnie, Maryland.
An avid knitter since college, Peace-DeVanzo began searching for an organization to donate her prolific work. She discovered the perfect fit in Alice’s Embrace, a nonprofit organization devoted to providing hand-knit and hand-crocheted shawls and lap blankets to those suffering from Alzheimer’s. It’s a disease the her family understands painfully well.

“My family is not the first nor will it be the last to have a member suffer with Alzheimer’s,” she says. “My children had a very hard time watching someone they considered their grandfather slowly slip away.”

But That's Not All -- In addition to her contribution to Alice's Embrace, Peace-DeVanzo (front left in red shirt) also participates in National Public Lands Day.

Scientists having discovered the soothing effects of blankets, finding they elicit feelings of safety. Those feelings increase the brain’s serotonin levels and decrease the presence of stress hormones.
“Her blankets bring so much calm and comfort to our recipients,” says Diane Lewis, who created Alice’s Embrace in memory of her mother Alice Figueira. “Whenever a box comes from Mary, it’s as if she has made something for her own loved one.”

Peace-DeVanzo has lovingly created and donated 36 blankets for Alice’s Embrace and has five more on the way. Each creation takes eight hours.

Toyota matches Peace-DeVanzo’s contributions through its team-member giving and volunteer program. So far, Toyota4Good has donated $1,600 dollars to Alice’s Embrace. But the loving care behind every stitch is immeasurable.

This year Peace-DeVanzo marks 30 years with Toyota and she is just as committed to her labor of love. She plans to focus her special brand of dedication on Alice’s Embrace for years to come.

“It’s just amazing that Toyota will recognize a volunteer’s time and make a contribution of their own,” she says. “And it just makes me feel so good inside to do something nice for someone else.”

Inspired to follow in Peace-DeVanzo’s volunteering footsteps? Team members interested in volunteering can connect to local community opportunities with Toyota4Good, our team member giving and volunteer program. Social Innovation is currently refreshing the platform, and preparing to launch the new site in April. Please review these FAQs for how to track volunteer hours and donations during the shutdown. Email Toyota4Good@Toyota.com with questions.

By Alexa Conomos


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