Happy Stitchers: St. Catherine's Village residents use stitching talents to help children in need

By NIKKI ROWELL,

Made of brightly colored yarn and stitched together with prayers, hundreds of crocheted or knit blankets will make their way from St. Catherine’s Village to various destinations across the world.

Two years ago, a group of women at St. Catherine’s gathered for their weekly social time of knitting, crocheting, quilting or needlepoint. While they were chatting, they discussed their desire to do something meaningful with their talents.

“God gave us the vision to do something that would help children in need or in crisis situations to help us feel needed and to give us a purpose in this stage of life,” said Carolyn Grant, a resident at St. Catherine’s Village and one of the founding members of the “Happy Stitchers.”

“We like to work with our hands, so it’s nice for something good to come from it,” said Gloria Green, a St. Catherine’s resident and “Happy Stitcher.”

They began crafting small blankets, 12 by 12 inches each. The idea was to create something quickly, in fun, bright colors. Grant said it is the perfect size for a small child, who might be going through a hard time, to hold, keep in his or her backpack or sleep with.

“It is so rewarding to know that these children who may leave a situation with nothing will have something to hold on to,” said Joan Watterson. “And for some, it may be the first Bible they ever see.”

The blankets are wrapped around a small stuffed animal, a Bible and a card, blessed by the resident priest, Fr. Frank Cosgrove, and packed into a plastic bag. Once the packages have been assembled, they are sent to Catholic Charities, where they are distributed to police stations for officers to give out to children when they respond to calls or to women’s crisis centers and more.

Each blanket has a tag attached that says, “Jesus loves you,” which is what Grant said the whole ministry is about.

“That’s the main thing is that these children know that,” Grant said.

A total of 30 blankets were made for the first donation. Some of the next donations were sent during hurricane relief efforts in Texas and Florida.

To date, the ladies have donated a total of 1,800 blankets to Catholic Charities, Wingard Home, Buried Treasures Home and Matt’s House. Last year, their blankets went across the world through the Operation Christmas Child shoebox ministry.

Once word got out about the group, other residents at St. Catherine’s Village began donating financially to the project and more women joined. Some did not even know how to crochet when they joined but have since learned so that they could contribute.

Amanda McNeely said she joined less than a year ago and has been learning to crochet so she could help out with the ministry.

The ministry has grown to approximately 43 people, who either make blankets, assemble the bags, bring the baskets out on donation day, give financially or lend a helping hand with other necessary tasks.

Barbara Murphy, Dot Burchfield and Barbara Hollis help out by wrapping the “babies” in the blankets and assembling the bags.

“It’s a wonderful social outlet,” said Doris DeZulutter. “It’s been fun learning something and having something to look forward to, something worthwhile. It makes me feel good to be involved in something productive and worthwhile.”

In addition to the blankets, the group has also donated hundreds of “chemo caps” to St. Dominic Cancer Center, “lapghans” to the St. Catherine’s Village nursing home residents and more than 100 tiny, red hats to the American Heart Association Big Hearts, Little Hats.

Each of the stitchers picks out and provides their own yarn in whatever colors they prefer. They gather each Thursday afternoon to work on their project and spend time together.

Marie Moorhead, the newest addition to the group, said she has developed new friendships through taking part in the ministry.

They donate 140 blankets a few times each year, usually before Easter, once in the summer and again the week before Thanksgiving.

“It’s been increasing,” Grant said of the number of blankets they are able to donate. “God has blessed our ministry, and it is growing.”

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