Envision the sights and sounds of needle craftsmanship, then and now: the hum of the electric sewing machine and the rhythm of the up and down motion of the treadled Singer in its fine wood case; fingers, young and old, working crochet and knitting needles. A labor of love woven into each item crafted from the many spools of thread, bolts of cloth, and skeins of yarn … a rainbow of color. Add to this the chatter of men and women, telling stories, some full of laughter and others strewn with tears.
All of this, and more, has been taking place for over 100 years among the auxiliary Sewers and Knitters in the Southwest Florida Red Cross chapter that serves Charlotte, DeSoto, Hardee, Manatee and Sarasota counties. The group can trace its roots to 1917. “In 1917, our Sewers and Knitters made socks and bandages, greatly needed by our soldiers,” said Jane Sanks, lead of the group. “From then to now we’ve expanded our work to include articles for infants, young children, and seniors.”
The lives of others, either individually or through other areawide organizations, truly benefit from the items made and given … but so do those who craft. Through caring acquaintances, long-lasting friendships have formed.
Replying to the question, what was the group’s most memorable work, came a quick response. “Making Christmas stockings from Army camouflage print material. All were filled with candy and toys, distributed to children of soldiers deployed to Iraq.”
She went on to share that not all endeavors are of a serious nature. About five years ago, Megarie van Sickel, Southwest Florida Executive Director, asked the group to make aprons for the Tampa Bay Chapter’s Gingerbread fundraising event. With enthusiasm the ladies made 100 aprons; today well over 200 are made for this occasion!
Adding to the diversity of the group’s work, they now make dog beds for homeless shelter animals awaiting adoption. In a given month an average of 80 beds per month are made, all from material scraps that might have otherwise been thrown away.
With all of these items made through their woven labor of love, Jane noted, “we rely on donations for all of our materials, and we buy what we need for the projects we individually decide to make. We are always grateful to those who contribute materials to our cause.”
Are you interested in joining this busy group who sew, knit and crochet? Your reason for doing so may be like Jane’s. “I was looking for a volunteer opportunity 17 years ago when moving to this community. The Red Cross saw my desire to volunteer and my love of sewing, turning it into a useful cause. A cause that has honored me with lots of friends.”
Consider sharing your time, talent and desire to help others; or perhaps to donate materials. Stop by the Southwest Florida Red Cross Chapter at 2001 Cantu Ct., Sarasota, FL 34232 or contact them by phone (941) 379-9300.