Hometown Hero: Hats off to this Penacook woman, a crafts lover whose artistic, and altruistic, nature has benefited people with serious illnesses

Nancy Peperissa in her sewing room in her Penacook home where she puts the finishing touches on making skull caps for chemotherapy patients and filling teddy bears with rice to comfort Alzheimer patients.

Nancy Peperissa in her sewing room in her Penacook home where she puts the finishing touches on making skull caps for chemotherapy patients and filling teddy bears with rice to comfort Alzheimer patients. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Nancy Peperissa in her sewing room in her Penacook home where she puts the finishing touches on making skull caps for chemotherapy patients and filling teddy bears with rice to comfort Alzheimer patients.

Nancy Peperissa in her sewing room in her Penacook home where she puts the finishing touches on making skull caps for chemotherapy patients and filling teddy bears with rice to comfort Alzheimer patients. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Nancy Peperissa in her sewing room in her Penacook home where she puts the finishing touches on making skull caps for chemotherapy patients and filling teddy bears with rice to comfort Alzheimer patients.

Nancy Peperissa in her sewing room in her Penacook home where she puts the finishing touches on making skull caps for chemotherapy patients and filling teddy bears with rice to comfort Alzheimer patients. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Nancy Peperissa in her sewing room in her Penacook home where she puts the finishing touches on making skull caps for chemotherapy patients and filling teddy bears with rice to comfort Alzheimer patients.

Nancy Peperissa in her sewing room in her Penacook home where she puts the finishing touches on making skull caps for chemotherapy patients and filling teddy bears with rice to comfort Alzheimer patients. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Nancy Peperissa in her sewing room in her Penacook home where she puts the finishing touches on making skull caps for chemotherapy patients and filling teddy bears with rice to comfort Alzheimer patients.

Nancy Peperissa in her sewing room in her Penacook home where she puts the finishing touches on making skull caps for chemotherapy patients and filling teddy bears with rice to comfort Alzheimer patients. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor staff

Published: 04-21-2024 11:36 AM

Nancy Peperissa’s secrets to help people involve cotton and rice, two items she uses to craft items with others in mind.

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

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

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

A Vermont native, she 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 of New England.

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

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

She saw caps for cancer patients at Concord Hospital about 10 years ago and decided to begin making contributions. Peperissa said she’s made about 570 caps, and that includes the 20 she made while on vacation recently in Arizona.

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She’s walked with cancer patients in the annual 3.1-mile Rock ‘N Race to benefit the Concord Hospital Payson Center.

Peperissa can crochet a new hat anywhere, like when she went to the hospital while her best friend was being treated for breast cancer 10 years ago.

“I would crochet in the lobby while waiting for her,” Peperissa said. “I can do it on an airplane, in a car.”

Her friend has since been given a clean bill of health. All cancer patients who experience the magic Peperissa has to offer, which includes her beloved crafts, would have a tough time not feeling better.

Her caps usually feature bright colors like pink and turquoise. As for the dolls, Peperissa said heavier ones translate into security and calmness for dementia patients. She’s made 400 so far.

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

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

The need for both items may be born out of challenging circumstances, and Peperissa imagined a world that wouldn’t 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 hats anymore.’ ”

Want to nominate the Hometown Hero in your life? Find our nomination form at https://bit.ly/3xbY64r