BARRHEAD - Children in Ukraine, and many other countries, will be a little warmer thanks to the efforts of several local women who have knitted, crocheted or sewed hundreds of mittens, scarves, slippers and other winter apparel.
The Hillcrest Lodge Knitters were joined by several other yarn enthusiasts, including Barrhead's Knitters and Rippers (a sewing and quilting club) on Nov. 14 to donate more than 2,000 hand-made clothing items to the local Operation Christmas Child (OCC).
OCC, which is run by a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization Samaritan's Purse, delivers shoeboxes filled with Christmas gifts for needy children in desperate situations around the world.
Hillcrest Lodge activity manager Shelley Oswald said the lodge's knitting club members have been contributing hand-made items to OCC for nearly 20 years. She added the club's activity increased after Samaritan's Purse asked Canada to provide 20,000 additional shoeboxes packed with cold-weather items for Ukraine following Russia's invasion of the country in 2014.
In 2017, due to distribution channel issues, none of Canada's shoeboxes went to Ukraine. However, within the last month, Samaritan's Purse announced the war-torn country is once again one of the destinations for Canadian shoeboxes, along with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Senegal, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and the Philippines.
"They've gone through a lot of yarn, a lot of needles," Oswald said, adding most of the material is donated. "When we think that is it, the yarn-fairy mysteriously appears again."
All totaled, the Hillcrest knitting club donated 709 items, with another 600-plus items coming from the Rippers and Stitchers, including many non-winter items such as T-shirts, dresses, pants and shorts. Another 500-800 items came from individuals not connected with either club.
Derra Mantey, who coordinates Barrhead's OCC effort along with her husband Herb through the Alliance Church, thanked the crafters for their donations.
"We've come to appreciate and acknowledge what the crafters in our community have so wonderfully and willing done to contribute, warm, knitted, crocheted, or sewn items for shoe boxes," Derra said. "Ladies, you are amazing. Because of your efforts, a child in desperate need will get a gift, many of them for the first time, and know they are loved."
Ruby Hoag is the elder member of the Hillcrest knitting club at 97 (she will be 98 in January) and has contributed her crocheted items to the OCC effort for the 20 years she has lived in Jubilee Manor, albeit, she admits at a slower pace than she once did.
Over the last year, Hoag completed more than 300 slipper pairs at a pace of about 25 a month.
"When I was a little bit younger, I could do 40 a month," she said, adding she learned to crochet as a child from her mother. "I don't know what I would have done if I did not have my crocheting and projects for Operation Christmas Child during COVID. It was a difficult time, and it kept me busy."
Another woman who wished to remain anonymous donated more than 500 toques and started knitting for OCC several years ago when she took several items that she made to a homeless shelter in the city.
However, the shelter turned down the items, partly due to the bright colours, which could draw unwanted attention to their clients.
But the Manteys were glad to take the items even though some boxes were going to warmer-weather countries.
"Every country has their cold season, when warm clothing, toques, scarves and mittens are appreciated," Derra said. "And thanks to these wonderful ladies, several children in Ukraine and other countries will have those items."