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Warmth for heads and hearts

Community: Thirty-member group knits hats, blankets, lap robes, scarves for soldiers in Afghanistan

Posted: December 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 5, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Penny Hamilton, 67, of Castaic, knits a hat.

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It’s a little bit of warmth or a little bit of home handmade by a perfect stranger.

Over the last decade, thousands of hats, blankets, lap robes and scarves have been donated by the Needle Crafters of the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center to everyone from babies to veterans.

Recently, the 30-member group added soldiers in Afghanistan to its lengthy roster of recipients, frantically knitting 700 pieces for distribution through a Santa Clarita Valley church.

“We went crazy with hats for the holidays. Some are red or green or white with sparkles,” said Needle Crafters member Dorothy Katz, of Newhall. “We want to give them a sense of home and celebration.”

 Today, the Needle Crafters will offer the community a chance to purchase unique knitted items during its annual holiday boutique at the Senior Center in Newhall, which is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

All proceeds will be benefit center programs, such as Home-Delivered Meals, emergency social services and Adult Day Care.

“The day care is so short of funds, we want to help them get back on track. They’re always trying to do something fun like have a birthday party, but there’s nothing extra in the budget,” said Katz, a long-time Senior Center member. “It’s such an excellent program, a great place for folks that need an outlet and a place where people can take their loved ones and know they’ll be taken care of for a few hours.”

The event is one of several hosted by the group throughout the year. In 2010, the Needle Crafters donated $3,000 to the center.

Katz also keeps a small supply of knitted goods on hand at the center for individual purchases.

“People come in and want to buy stuff all the time. They’ll have a relative that’s having a baby and ask me, ‘Do you have a blanket?” Katz said.

The Needle Crafters meet every Monday morning at the center, from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Membership is free and knitters of all levels are welcome, including newcomers.

“We actually help others learn how to crochet or knit. We’ve taught a lot of people,” Katz said.

Many of the members, such as Hilda DeBord, of Newhall, have been knitting most of their lives.

“I’m German. During the war, if we wanted anything, we had to knit it,” she said.

While she knits almost every day at home, DeBord enjoys the Needle Crafters’ group setting. She joined at the suggestion of a friend.

“It’s the camaraderie, and it makes you feel good to do something for somebody,” DeBord said. “I think most people appreciate a homemade gift, knowing that someone put many hours into it. We put a lot of love into everything we make.”

She also values the mental stimulation offered by knitting.

“I think as we get older, we need something to do. I read and watch television, but that’s not always the answer. If you can do something to keep busy and have something to show for it when you get through, it makes you feel good. I enjoy seeing the finished product,” DeBord said.

Vickie Pierce, of Newhall, began knitting at the Senior Center about 20 years ago and has been part of the Needle Crafters since its inception.

“It’s the crafts, the people, everything. It’s a fun place to go,” Pierce said. “I like everything that has to do with knitting or crocheting. Every time I see a new pattern, I want to try it.”

She cited making hats for babies at Henry Newhall Memorial Hospital in Valencia as particularly satisfying.

“I have received letters and pictures of the babies with their hats from the mothers, which I enjoy very much. They must, too, to send a thank you,” Pierce said.

The Needle Crafters Holiday Boutique takes place today, 9 a.m. to 1  p.m., Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, 22900 Market St., Newhall. For more information on the Needle Crafters, email Dorothy Katz at dgates541@yahoo.com.

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