Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Artist Jill Paddock donates stained glass hearts to health care workers

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GRAFTON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Jill Paddock is a stained glass artist in Grafton. For the last two years, she’s spent hundreds of hours making hearts for health care workers fighting the pandemic.

She's donated nearly 500 pieces to area hospitals.

Paddock wants nurses and doctors to know people are still thinking about them.

Paddock's Grafton home is filled with beautiful pieces of stained glass, all of which she made.

"This is my stained glass workshop," she said, showing off her basement studio.

Paddock has been working out of this space for 30 years.

"I balk at the term artist. I don't think I'm an artist," she said humbly. "I think I'm just, an enthusiast, I guess?"

For the most part, stained glass is an art she taught herself.

"Glass always wants to go in a straight line, so if you have a curve, you have to be very, very careful," she said, demonstrating a cut.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, life itself has had a lot of curves.

"I wanted to do something because I knew how overworked and stressed health care workers were," Paddock explained.

Seeing them in their protective gear at the start of the pandemic touched her heart.

"I can't help them do the technical parts of their job, but I could at least make them feel better at the end of a shift," she said.

She turned to what she knows.

Cutting the glass.

"You can't be hesitant. Once you start, you have to commit," she said, leaning over a piece.

And soldering the halves together.

"I run it twice, so it makes a nice bead," she said.

Upstairs, her dining room table is covered with her works of art. There are hearts in all the colors of the rainbow. Even green and gold, for Packers fans.

"I do 40 or 50 at a time," she said of the process.

Each takes 45 minutes or so to make, and she's made close to 500 hearts.

When she has 40 or 50, she delivers them to frontline health care workers.

"Here you go! Alright, thank you. That's 40 of them," she said outside Froedtert recently.

Nurse manager Eric Schimmel took the delivery.

"We were truly blown away by her generosity," Schimmel said.

This is the second delivery of Paddock's hearts he's brought to his unit.

"The time she takes and the heart that she puts into each and every one of these hearts is truly incredible," he said.

Paddock has gotten photos of the doctors and nurses with their hearts, but for the most part, her work is going to people she'll never meet, so she puts a note inside.

"Please have a heart. I hope it serves as a reminder how grateful we are for people like you," she said, reading from the note. "We call you everyday heroes because you are, and have been a hero, each and every day."

Paddock is inspired by the medical professionals in her own family, including cousin and critical care physician Kristen Hasson.

"I think it's a much-needed and much-appreciated boost to morale," Hasson said.

Knowing that people are still thinking about health care workers two years into in the pandemic means a lot.

"And then to have somebody like Jill give you a little reminder that there are still people out there who appreciate everything that you're doing, is really special," she said.

That's what Paddock is going for.

"I like doing it because it's sort of like meditation," she said. 

Thinking about the doctors and nurses fighting Covid-19, and hoping this small piece of her heart touches theirs.

"I look forward to the day when I don't have to make hearts for them. I mean, I've loved every minute of it, but I want them to have their jobs back," she said.

If you'd like to nominate someone for Everyday Heroes, send Natalie a message at NShepherd@cbs58.com.

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