Assistant Managing Editor
EAST LONGMEADOW Beth-Ann Latsko has committed her life to offering solace and hope to anyone who is in need of it.
Founder of Jewelry of Hope, she designs unique jewelry for weddings, those wanting to give something special to a loved one, many dealing with illnesses, and those wanting to offer a gift of meaning infused with positive energy. Latsko has even designed pieces for Sharon Stone and her sister Kelly for their Planet Hope Foundation.
This year Latsko has embarked on new ways to touch others. For more than a year she has helped revamp an oncology ward at Baystate Medical Center and in November she released her new book "Wrapped in Hope & Love."
When she lost her mother from cancer 12 years ago, she said she wanted to "make a difference in the community." Over time Latsko has busied herself with many local initiatives like Operation Smile. This year she focused her energy on Baystate.
She said when her mother was very ill, she found it difficult to leave her side in the hospital, even just to get a coffee or drink of water. That is one of the reasons she said she worked to add small luxuries to the adult oncology ward.
Latsko refused to take credit. She said she has been able to give the ward DVDs, videos, a one cup gourmet coffee maker, a large oak armoire, and a host of other gifts, due to the "generosity of everyone who supports what I do."
"We as a unit are very thankful for Beth-Ann's generosity," said Leeanne Fenney, a nurse in the oncology ward. "In memory of her mom she is dedicated to helping others affected by cancer. She reaches out to young and old with a focus on comfort for patients and families. She also recognizes the importance of the nursing staff."
Latsko feels things like these come together for a purpose. She said while she was compiling her new book, she had no title in mind. People often called her to share their stories and she said one woman in particular called and told her about a time when she was ill, and how a woman sitting next to her, who was wearing a shawl, told her everything would be okay, and that she believed her.
"That's where the name of the book came from," Latsko said. "There are these people that come into my life ... they end up finding me. I felt like this was a real sign," Latsko said.
So in line with the warmth of the shawl, she titled her book, "Wrapped in Hope & Love."
The 46-page book is a compilation of positive words and personal manisfestos of what hope means, from people in the community.
She asks that anyone in the community that would like to donate a prayer shawl contact her via her web site www.jewelryofhope.com.
Latsko is hoping to donate one book with every shawl to the oncology unit at Baystate.