A group of women are coming together to create hundreds of bags for chemotherapy patients and their caregivers. The woman helping start the Bags of Hope ministry says making these isn’t without pain, but it’s helping her to heal, too.

Inside Bonnie Rose’s home in Creal Springs, ladies meet to fill bag after bag for chemo patients.

"Gum, pen and pencil, just anything that would help pass the time for them and the person that’s sitting with them," said Bonnie, who started the Bags of Hope ministry.

"When she runs low, I go stock," said Cindy Mitchell. Cindy does most of the shopping but Bonnie spends a lot of her own time and money on supplies, enough to fill an entire room in her home. Everything from tissues to mints and even homemade pillows goes inside every Bag of Hope.

"Well, this is the stuff I needed when I was sitting with my husband. Because you know, sometimes you can be there eight to — depending on if you have to have blood — eight to 14 hours," she said. Bonnie’s had her husband, Sam, in mind with every bag she’s made since.

"Well he, he passed away. He was exposed to Agent Orange. It took me about a year and a half to start doing it after he died, before I could do it. I knew I needed to do something, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t do it," she said. Bonnie’s helped make and deliver more than 800 bags now, but she said it’s never easy.

“It hurts to do them. Because I know what those people and their families are going through, and it’s hard to do. Especially the kids," she said.

"It just touches you," said Sue Adams, who helps Bonnie to make the bags. Adams said every bag and item inside carries a meaning to those getting them, like the bag with the pillow inside that their pastor’s wife’s brother carried with him in life and later in death.

"Before he passed away, he asked that he be cremated with his pillow. He carried that pillow all the time," Adams said.

"These are put in each one of the bags, too. And this says, ‘Faith, Bag of Hope,’ and the hope means hold on, pain ends. In memory of Sam Rose," Cindy said.

With that memory and a little hope, Bonnie hopes working through her pain eases it for someone else.

If you want to help the ladies at Bags of Hope ministry, they’re always looking for donations of supplies and money to continue providing the bags for cancer patients around southern Illinois

A chili dinner fundraiser will be held Saturday, March 4, at Sugar Creek Café in Creal Springs. Tickets are $5 per adult and $3 for children 12-years-old and under. There will be an auction, raffle and live music. The event runs from 4:30 p.m. until 7 p.m.