A group of senior women from Jonesville and Elkin meet once a week at the Yadkin Valley Senior Center in Jonesville to crochet or knit shawls in an act of caring for those who don’t even know them.
The works is part of the prayer shawl ministry, and once made, the shawls are picked up by Sharon Ratcliff with Mountain Valley Hospice and blessed by a chaplain before being given to patients. Since its beginning in 2012, Senior Center Director Jennifer Hemric said the group of nine women have made 1,562 blankets.
Hemric said the prayer shawl ministry provides meaning for individuals and gives meaning to the community. “Everybody wants to feel wanted and you don’t have to be old to have a terminal disease.” Hemric said she has a notebook full of thank-yous from appreciative hospital staff and patients. The knitters and crocheting women said the notes make them happy, and act as reminders that they have helped someone in need.
The women described the excitement they feel each time they choose yarn colors and determine what knitting or crochet stitch to use. In the process, the women enjoy camaraderie and friendship as they knit during their short meeting time each week.
They do not know who is going to get the shawls before they are picked up by Ratcliff. What they do know is that each one is designed “as a gift of love” for someone who is hurting or suffering, They explained how a prayer shawl can help ease suffering in ways people may not be able to do during times of crisis.
At the head of the row of tables during a recent gathering by the group was Doris Johnson, who was knitting a basket-weave pattern with a teardrop stitch made in scarlet yarn. Johnson said while being in her senior years the prayer shawl ministry has given her life purpose. She added, “Its really been a blessing to know that I am doing something that lets people know we care about our community and our people.” Sitting beside Johnson was Judy Swaim, who agreed and was half-way thorough a variegated prayer shawl design that will “deliver a hug” in hues of cerulean blue, soft pink, and mint green.
Johnson said the crew makes red, white and blue prayer shawls that are especially for veterans. Some of the women’s husbands served in the military. It is deeply meaningful for them to knit those shawls, they said.
Several credited Johnson with teaching them crocheting and knitting techniques.
Maria Hicks, who met her husband while he was in the military in Spain, crochets her prayer shawls with a prized deep purple crochet needle. She said it was gift from her son and she wasted no time in putting it to work. Hicks has made more than 200 shawls since being in the prayer shawl ministry, she said. “I love to do any color,” she added.
Millie Young, who also met her husband while he served in the military, is a retired nurse and was crocheting a Carolina blue and brown stitched shawl. “Kind deeds are like little prayers,” said Young, who says a prayer before she begins every new shawl.
Across from Young also knitting in Carolina blue yarn sat another retired nurse, Catherine Transou. Young and Transou discussed how the prayer shawls meet a basic human need in that they provide a covering, keep people warm and bring comfort in the midst of suffering. They stated how the nursing profession helped them understand how important prayer shawls could be.
“Once a nurse, always a nurse,” they said.
Debbie Carter said she thinks of the shawls as a way of delivering a “hug.” Fran Evans said she sometimes crochets them at home and outside in the sunshine “to infuse them with warmth.” Marty Cavanaugh agreed with Evans about the importance of setting as she demonstrated a crocheting style that will involve connecting squares together for a unique finish.
The prayer shawl group recently held a bake sale to raise funds for more yarn and said they are appreciative of anyone who wants to donate yarn for their cause or donated money to buy supplies.
They thankfully recalled a man’s donation who once gave nearly a truckful after his wife died. They said they did not waste any time and got busy completing prayer shawls with the gift.
For donation information, contact Hemric at 336-526-1087 with the Yadkin Valley Senior Center in Jonesville. The prayer shawl ministry ladies said they are grateful for any contribution either of yarn, or money, no matter how small it may seem.
Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.