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Cherry-pit-filled pillows bring relief to local hospice clients 

J'Nelle Holland has cold feet, but not in the sense that she's apprehensive—far from it. Her feet get really cold at night, making it kind of hard to sleep. She decided to do some research on alternative ways to solve her problem.

What Holland found were small pillows stuffed with cherry pits that are used for (among many other things) warmth. To warm it up, all you have to do is put the pillow in the microwave.

click to enlarge ALLEVIATING PAIN Santa Barbara-based residents team up with Hospice SLO County to provide comfort and a fundraiser. - PHOTO COURTESY OF HOT CHERRY PILLOWS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Hot Cherry Pillows
  • ALLEVIATING PAIN Santa Barbara-based residents team up with Hospice SLO County to provide comfort and a fundraiser.

"I fell in love with this pillow from Europe, and, with my cold feet, the hot cherry pillow is the most wonderful way to warm me up when I go to bed," she said.

The pillow is a Swiss tradition. Holland said that foundry workers would fill sacks with cherry pits and heat the sacks to ease their sore muscles after a long day of physical work. She said that she has a friend who was raised in Switzerland and would use cherry-pit-filled sacks. Holland said her friend remembers her grandmother having a small door on the side of her wood-burning stove. It was a designated spot to warm the sacks filled with cherry pits. Every night, her friend's grandmother would place the sacks in their beds to keep everyone warm.

Holland bought a pillow from London. While she loved it, she said it could have been made a little bit better.

With that determination, Holland established her Santa Barbara-based business, Hot Cherry Pillows. She started making the pillows with recycled denim—pant legs from jeans. Now she uses naturally dyed, 100 percent cotton denim or plush ultra suede (in maraschino-cherry red).

The cherry pits that would otherwise go to a landfill come from the Michigan cherry industry. Holland has a small, family shop in Southern California where the pits are cleaned, dried—without using chemicals—and stuffed into pillows that are sewn shut.

As her business grew, Holland encountered another problem—an excess of pillows left over from sales demonstrations.

She knew exactly who could benefit from these pillows and decided to donate them to Sarah House Santa Barbara, an organization that provides a home and end-of-life care services. She also worked with the organization so that a percentage of pillow purchases would go directly toward Sarah House. It was so successful that Holland looked for more hospice organizations to assist and reached out to Hospice SLO County.

Kris Kington-Barker, executive director of Hospice SLO County, said everyone at the nonprofit believed that, given the nature of the non-medical approach they take, it was a really good fit. Kington-Barker said the pillows are often used during counseling sessions or with services provided by the end-of-life doulas.

"To have the warm and the scent from these pillows is really kind of a natural and nice way to offer somebody something that feels homey and comfortable. It fits naturally with our environment of creating a safe and comfortable place for our clients," she said.

Along with the donated pillows, Holland is teaming up with Hospice SLO County to facilitate a fundraiser from now until June 16. With every purchase, 25 percent will support the nonprofit by entering the code "HSLO" at the time of checkout.

For more information on the Hot Cherry Pillows or to purchase your own, visit or place an order by phone at (855) 651-1651.

Fast fact

Practice Greenhealth, a national organization dedicated to environmental sustainability in health care, recognized three Dignity Health Central Coast hospitals. Arroyo Grande Community Hospital and Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria received the Partner for Change awards from Practice Greenhealth. The award recognizes health care facilities that continuously improve and expand upon programs to eliminate mercury, reduce and recycle waste, source products sustainably, and more. In addition, Marian was also honored with a Circle of Excellence award for scoring in the top tier for water conservation and efficiency. French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo received the Partner Recognition award, which honors facilities that show a commitment to environmental improvements. For more information on Practice Greenhealth, visit Δ

Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to [email protected].

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