Made with Love: Senior needleworkers make piles of crafts, then give them away

DeKALB – For two hours every Monday afternoon, a small group of local women sits around a large table at the Family Service Agency of DeKalb County DeKalb Senior Center, knitting, crocheting and talking.

They also laugh a lot.

“We knit and stop and then we talk,” Loretta Kruse of DeKalb said as she paused to take a sip of coffee and sample a homemade brownie Carol Foster had just brought in. “We’re just sharing time and finding out what’s going on in each other’s lives.”

“There’s no arguing about anything,” Joann Irving of DeKalb added. “We just go with the flow.”

Irving is a relative of MidWeek reporter Doug Oleson.

Sometimes, Marcia Osterhout said with a laugh, the women don’t get as much done as they would like because there’s actually too much talking.

Along with all the good humor, there’s also a lot of goodwill.

Throughout the year, the women make a variety of items, like mittens, scarves, hats, lap robes, baby blankets, afghans and doll clothes. When they “get a pile of stuff,” Fran Besserman said, they donate the items to nonprofit organizations throughout the county, including local schools, nursing homes, Hope Haven homeless shelter, the KishHealth cancer centers, Safe Passage women’s shelter and the We Care Pregnancy Center.

There is no official leader in charge of the donations; Besserman said the women decide together where to donate. She added that the senior center periodically contacts local agencies to find areas where the need is the greatest.

Once they get a list of needed items, Osterhout said group members can decide what they want to make.

“We try to make what they need, but it’s nice to have a variety,” she said.

Kruse said most of the yarn and supplies the needle workers use has been donated. They are always open to receiving donations and to being joined by new members. No one is quite sure when the group started, but it has existed in some form for at least 10 years.

“My daughter saw an ad in the paper (about the group) and said it’s something I should try,” Ethel Moline of DeKalb said.

Now a longtime member, Moline’s specialties are making chemo caps for cancer patients and baby hats.

Carrier-Carby said anyone 55 and older can just show up at the meetings, from 1 to 3 p.m. every Monday except on holidays at the center, 330 Grove St. in DeKalb.

You don’t need to know how to knit or crochet to join, but a sense of humor might be helpful.

“The reason we’re here is if we don’t (show up), we’ll get talked about,” Vera Anderson of Sycamore joked.

“This is a fun group,” assistant program coordinator Tammie M. Shered said, adding that she’s learned a lot about knitting from the women.

In addition to their donation pile, at the moment the needle workers are busy making items for their second annual Holiday Bazaar, a fundraiser for the senior center. The bazaar will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 7, at the center. There will be refreshments and a quilt raffle. Anyone wishing to make or donate other handmade crafts can do so by calling senior center activity coordinator Deanna Carrier-Carby at 815-758-4718.

Carrier-Carby said last year’s fundraiser brought in more than $800. The funds go into the senior center’s general fund, she said, unless the needle workers specify something they would like to purchase.

The senior center’s biggest fundraiser is a pie auction held just before Thanksgiving, Carrier-Carby said, but the bazaar is something they would like to grow.

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