By LIZ ALLEN, Staff Writer
Marcia’s Frisina’s heart ached for people who are homeless, but she knew that she couldn’t embrace everyone who is hurting.
Instead, she made fleece scarves for those who battle the elements, naming her down-to-earth ministry Marcia’s Hugs.
For 10 years, under Marcia’s direction and with help from family and friends, Marcia’s Hugs has delivered anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 scarves annually to Emmaus Soup Kitchen, SafeNet, Sister Gus’ Kids Cafe and other places that serve Erie’s needy adults and children.
Her goal was always to make sure the scarves were finished before the weather got cold, said Dominic Frisina, her husband.
This year, Marcia’s Hugs met its deadline, minus its founder. On Sept. 7, Marcia died after a two-and-half-year battle with cancer.
But the project will continue, thanks to Dominic, their adult children, extended family and many friends. “We’ve got to keep her legacy alive,” said niece Gina Frisina Adams, who designed the scarf labels that say: “You are wrapped in the warmth of God’s love.”
The love between Dominic and Marcia was there from the night they met at a spaghetti dinner at
Gannon University sponsored by his fraternity. “She liked the way I laughed at myself,” Dominic recalled. When he gave her a ride home after the dinner, “She told her parents and grandparents ‘I met the man I’m going to marry.’”
Marcia also confided early on that she wanted to open an orphanage. Although that didn’t formally come to pass, she was known making everyone she met feel like family, thanks to her generosity and warmth.
She also was stoic in the face of her cancer diagnosis. “She ministered when she went for her
treatments,” said Emmaus Social Worker Rita Scrimenti.
A Facebook post by Marcia and Dominic’s daughter and son-in-law, Laurie and Andrew Kuzneski of Indiana, Pa., helped to raise money for the supplies they needed to make the scarves. Marcia made paper hearts for every donor and hung them on the Christmas tree last year, keeping the tree up through February, knowing it would likely be her last.
Those donations helped the ministry to carry on, aiding the savvy volunteers who shop around for the best prices for fleece in all sorts of colors and patterns to delight the women, men, and kids who receive the scarves, Dominic explained.
The fabric is cut into 11- or 12-inch widths for adults and 10 inches for children, then the ends are tied off or snipped into fringes. The handiwork nature of this ministry is important to the Frisina family.
“Every night when we went to bed we held hands,” Dominic said, and for Marcia’s funeral, he wanted to wrap her hands in one of her scarves.
A week before she passed away, he pulled a scarf from a storage bag of scarves waiting the final touch.
“I felt so bad because they weren’t finished,” he said. Dominic selected the scarf he wanted for Marcia. “I snipped it right on the bed,” he said. “I did the last snip. She passed. Her head dropped.”
After 57 years of marriage, Dominic anticipated it would be hard to fall asleep without Marcia by his side. “But I put my hand down where her hand would be,” he recalled. And he slept.
(L-R) Dominic Frisina, Sister Valerie Luckey, and Gina Frisina Adams try on some scarves donated to Emmaus Ministries by Marcia’s Hugs, started 10 years by the late Marcia Frisina. Dominic, her husband, and her niece Gina promised Marcia that they will carry on her ministry with the help of family and friends.
Marcia Frisina carried her Christmas celebration into February this past year, decorating her tree with hearts to honor family and friends who donated to Marcia’s Hugs, which makes scarves for Erie’s needy.