By Rachel Wesche
For The Observer
Using scraps of yarn and castoff dolls, some women at the Grande Ronde Retirement Residence have
crocheted their spare time into a generous donation to Shelter From the Storm.
The women, averaging 90 years in age, meet two mornings a week to clean up the used dolls and make clothes for them. They also craft child-sized afghans and sweaters, stuffed animals and finger-puppets.
They began their work, dubbed Maturity Creations, in February, when they had to decide what to do with donations of yarn and fabric and how to spend the money they made from their December crafts fair.
Activity Director Joyce Atchley was inspired by a television show about refurbishing used dolls. The idea appealed to her partly because it could be ongoing. She gives credit for the project to the women, however. Its kind of everybodys idea. I helped orchestrate it, but its their work, she says.
The women decided early on that they wanted their work to benefit children in need. Choosing a charity to receive their gifts was more complicated.
When we voted on which charities, we had an amazing list, says Atchley, remembering the 15 or 20 charities they had to choose from. Ultimately, however, They liked that the Shelter From the Storm was a local charity giving back to the community, she says.
On June 11, eight women officially presented more than three months worth of their work to Sarah Schlichting, the shelters director. The group posed for pictures around their dollies and granny squares, all smiles, before sending them out.
Maturity Creations provides a valuable outlet for the women at the retirement residence, and adds greater meaning to their craft activities, participants said.
Its entertaining to us, and beneficial to the kids in the community, says Atchley, explaining the dual purpose of the project. Theyre trying to make themselves useful.
They put thought, as well as heart, into their work. The dolls shoes are glued on with nontoxic paste to keep them from being lost. The dolls underwear are sewn onto the dresses to ensure that they remain modestly attired. Obviously, these people have raised kids, Atchley says.
Even those who are less physically able have a place in Maturity Creations.
Mary Kusaka says that although she used to crochet, she cannot anymore. My hands dont work, she says. Kusaka still has work to do, however, putting finger puppets together. She appreciates that it takes up much of her idle time.
Besides working on the group projects, some women also have individual endeavors. Nellie Greer, the wife of a Baptist minister for much of her life, knits sweaters for the Kodiak Baptist Mission, an orphanage in Alaska.
I have had this project for several years, she says. They needed sweaters in Alaska, so I started doing them. The brighter they are, the better the children like them. Her latest sweater is bright red.
Even though Greer works mostly on her own, she values the groups doll project for her friends, and works alongside them. Its wonderful having a project like this. It gives them something to work for, she says.
Atchley is looking for future outlets for her residents busy hands.
It wont be the end for the groups dolls, sweaters and blankets, either.
Schlichting said some will stay at the shelter house; some will go home with children who visit. Others will be saved for the cooler months or even given as Christmas gifts. Some blankets and sweaters will also go to the young parents program. Well have them available for anyone that needs them, says Schlichting.
Like the charities they donate to, Maturity Creations relies on donations to be supplied with raw materials. Resident Olga Rawlins and her friends were instrumental in gathering dolls for their first project, and gifts of yarn scraps have come from other sources. While they use the scraps to make granny squares, they are usually in need of full skeins of one-color yarn to piece them into blankets.
It takes a lot to keep us out of mischief, doesnt it? joked Atchley with the women of Maturity Creations. Far from simply keeping out of mischief, these women are using their time and talents to bring fun and comfort to the children of the community.