Teddy bears by the thousands – that may very well be what Billie Ellis dreams about at night.

Since 1992, this neighborhood resident and member of Highland Oaks Church of Christ has stitched nearly 11,000 bears for children in local hospitals through her church’s outreach group, Helping Hearts.

Helping Hearts coordinator Vaudine Trigg says the group donates 40 teddies each week to Baylor Garland Emergency Room for young patients. Ambulance drivers also carry them in their vehicles for children they are transporting.

Most Helping Hearts workers assemble the bears in the church’s workroom, with everyone performing a different task: cutting out the material, trimming the edges, stuffing, attaching tags, and so on. Since Ellis doesn’t drive, she volunteered more than five years ago to do machine-stitching at home. She has done so ever since, picking up the cut material on Sunday and returning 50 stitched bears the next Sunday.

“It takes me six to eight hours each week, but of course I don’t do it all at once,” she says. “They’ve told me that if I quit, they’d have to fold, because nobody else would do it!”

But I love it. I can’t think of any reason why I shouldn’t do it.”

Ellis and her husband also deliver Meals on Wheels once a month, with him doing the driving.

“I couldn’t do any of this without his support,” she says. “And all of the group at Helping Hearts deserve recognition, not just me.”