Volunteers knit homemade warmth for Red Cross

PASADENA, Calif. - The knitting needles move quickly, and so do the quips, at the Villa Gardens retirement home when members of the volunteer knitting circle gather each week to make blankets, vests, sweaters and socks for disaster victims.

The volunteers knitters, who range in age from 80 to 99, have been meeting each week since 1989 to stitch together items for the San Gabriel Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross. The chapter hands out the knitted items to people who have lost their homes in fires and to families of U.S. military members who live in the region.

Knitting circle co-founder Dorothy Coon said the knitters have donated 415 blankets, 99 vests, 95 men's sweaters, 95 pairs of bed socks, 58 sweaters for infants and children and 23 scarves to the Red Cross.

The loquacious ladies share a passion for football and readily display a quick wit when the one-hour knitting circle convenes.

After showing a visitor an oversized pair of bed socks, for example, one lady chimed up: "They're for an elephant."

Doris Becker, who crochets the edges on the group's afghan blankets, also claimed that she was 29.

"That's a good age. That's a very good age, that's why I'm hanging onto it," said the 88-year-old Becker, who has been a Red Cross knitter for about three years.

Margaret Meyer, 90, was the sole UCLA Bruins football fan in the knitting circle, with everyone else favoring the Trojans, their top-ranked rivals from the University of Southern California.

Though the stitching looks complicated, Meyer said it's really not and it's easy to watch television while doing it.

The year-round compassion shown by the ladies has been much appreciated by the Red Cross, said Dereck Andrade, a spokesman for the San Gabriel Valley chapter.

"These are not the quintessential little old ladies from Pasadena," Andrade said. "They worked hard during their lives and want to give back to their community."

The knitting ladies had never met any of the disaster victims they've helped until two weeks ago, when the Red Cross brought over a family who lost their home in an apartment fire, Andrade said.

"They all cried," he said.


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