Tuesday, July 24, 2007
By Chris Worthy
From The Tribune-Times, July 5, 2006
It started with the knitting needles of Five Forks area resident Iris Whatley.
Whatley, who was profiled in the Oct. 26 Tribune-Times story, “Purls of Compassion,” spends countless hours knitting sweaters and blankets for orphaned children and desperately poor families in Ukraine. Her friend and fellow knitter Camilla Madding introduced Whatley to the idea of knitting for needy children and followed the Tribune Times story with a Nov. 2 “My Turn” column in which she offered to send a sweater pattern to knitters who were willing to help.
Madding was overwhelmed at the response. Knitters volunteered their talents while those with projects gone awry donated yarn. Simpsonville resident Edith Canna is an avid crafter who knits and crochets. She was touched by the story of Ukrainian families in need.
“It’s hard to believe that in this day and age their problems are so acute,” she said. “We’ve got so much here in the States.”
Canna viewed photos from Theresa Garrett, known to many as Pinky the Clown, who is part of Ware Shoals-based The Master’s Mission, a Christian missionary group that travels annually to Ukraine. The pictures touched Canna’s heart.
“They are hard to look at,” she said.
Canna moved to the Golden Strip from New York about five years ago to be close to her family. For many years she has volunteered her talents, making lap robes for hospitalized veterans. She also knits and crochets items for nursing home residents, Meals on Wheels’ clients and expectant mothers who contact crisis pregnancy centers. One of her most difficult projects has been the small burial blankets—five or six dozen of them—she created for parents whose children are stillborn or die in early infancy. The knitting was easy for Canna but she felt the sorrow of each stitch.
“They weren’t hard to do but it’s a labor of love for the little person who isn’t going to be,” she said.
But Canna’s joy is evident when she speaks of the kindred spirit she has found in Whatley.
“Iris is an amazing lady,” Canna said. “We do things the same way. We’re both old school. We’re both in our 80s. It’s a delight to do something and know that someone is going to use it.”
Canna and Whatley both use donated yarn and they make each bit count. They turn scrap yarn into brightly colored warm sweaters that can make all the difference in the life of a child who may alternate attending school with a sibling because there is not enough warm clothing for both children.
“Whatever I have left, I put colors together,” Canna said. “We don’t waste anything.”
Madding said the knitters who responded to her plea for help have contributed dozens of child-sized sweaters, dozens of baby blankets and countless knit caps, gloves and scarves. And they show no signs of slowing down as long as the yarn keeps coming.
“The thing that surprised me is that they are interested in making so many things,” Madding said. “I am amazed at the volume of baby afghans, scarves and everything else they are making. And they are still making things. God has just gone crazy with this thing. I don’t know how much yarn we had donated, but they have almost used it all up.”
Madding credits Whatley with encouraging her to help get the word out about the project.
“Iris just kept saying, ‘I know there must be people who know how to knit or crochet who would like to help out,’” Madding said. “It’s been really fun. I’ve enjoyed seeing what God does with something.”
Henrietta Christiansen, a 91-year-old Simpsonville resident, crochets baby afghans–several each month.
“I saw (Madding’s) picture in the paper and I contacted her,” Christiansen said. “I told her I make these afghans, but I have nowhere to send them.”
Now Christiansen’s handwork fulfills an additional purpose.
“I have to do something,” she said. “It’s very easy to do. I make each one a little different. I have 12 or 13 right now to give her. I just keep making one after the other. I’m glad to have some place to give them.”
Madding is thankful for the work of giving hands.
“They are all beautiful scarves and sweaters and I picture the children in them in that cold, cold weather when they have nothing,” she said.
For crafters like Canna, the ability to give to others is itself a gift.
“It’s my pleasure and it’s done with a lot of love,” she said.
The Master’s Mission and Theresa “Pinky” Garrett travel to Ukraine each year to teach clowning to others and to minister to families who live in the shadow of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The group sends boxes of sweaters, blankets and other items in advance of the trip and also sends filled “joy boxes,” gift boxes for Ukrainian children, and “mommy bags,” bags of supplies for new mothers.
Supplies and yarn are needed, as well as knitters who are willing to volunteer their time and talents. Filled “joy boxes” are also needed. For more information, contact Camilla Madding at 967-7948 or The Master’s Mission at (864) 456-3055.
Saturday, July 21, 2007
This is the only major drawback to ordering "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" online: waiting for the delivery. Determined to avoid spoilers, my daughter set up camp outside, ready for the coveted box to arrive. To make the wait go faster, she worked on required summer reading. In this case, it was "A Separate Peace." A great book, even if Amazon isn't delivering two million copies of it today.
And so, Christmas comes early to muggles everywhere.
Friday, July 20, 2007
And yes, those are nibble marks on the basil. I pretty much get whatever the caterpillars leave behind. In the case of my cilantro, I was left with nothing but stems -- and butterflies.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
by Chris Worthy
From The Tribune-Times, Oct. 26, 2005
Born of necessity, Iris Whatley’s knitting skills once warmed the feet of British soldiers in World War II. At 87, she still knits feverishly—but the work of her hands now clothes desperately poor children half a world away.
The pictures from the former Soviet Union tell the story: mothers beam as they hold Whatley’s brightly colored creations—a true rainbow in an otherwise dismal landscape.
Whatley, a widow who has three sons, nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, now lives in the Five Forks area with her youngest son and his family, but her journey began in England at a time when survival depended upon frugality and self-reliance.
“I’ve knitted since I was five,” Whatley said. “We went to school and you learned to knit and sew. When you’d done that, you then went on to other things. You started off knitting a dishcloth. The next thing you knitted was a (sweater) front. The little girl next to you knit the other half. Then you knit a glove and she would knit the other one, then a sock. By the time you left school, you could totally clothe yourself.”
And she learned to do so frugally. Even now, Whatley puts each scrap of yarn to use and she often receives unfinished knitting projects from others that she unravels and stores for another day.
“You don’t waste anything,” she said. “I roll up every bit of string.”
“I lived totally through World War II,” Whatley said. “A week’s rations filled a shoebox. That’s all you had—two ounces of bacon, two ounces of butter, two ounces of lard. I never saw anybody starve. I never saw anybody obese either. Everything of importance was taken. You learned to share.”
Having lived through the leanest of times, Whatley’s heart breaks for those in need. And she has little tolerance for wastefulness or over consumption.
“I went on my first cruise and I cried when I saw the food that was shot overboard that we never ate,” she said. “The ports are the poorest part of town. There were little children with a hibiscus, bringing it to you. They let them out of school to beg. And there was this liner full of people. And then you’re overfed, you’re overstuffed, you’re over-entertained, you’re over-everything else.”
Whatley found a way to help through Simpsonville resident Camilla Madding. Madding met Whatley at church and told her about a project organized by Guideposts magazine that provides sweaters to needy children.
“I thought maybe she would be interested,” Madding said. “I asked if she knew how to knit. Little did I know. I gave her the pattern and maybe a month later she was back at church and said, ‘I’ve knitted you some sweaters.’ She had a box and there were maybe 25 of them.”
Soon thereafter, Madding—who said she knits one sweater for each 50 Whatley completes—learned of another ministry that could use the talents of “the sweater wizard,” as Madding calls Whatley.
Waterloo resident Theresa Garrett, known to many as Pinky the Clown, is part of Ware Shoals-based The Master’s Mission, a Christian missionary group. Garrett travels with the group to Ukraine once or twice each year to teach clowning and reach out to families who live in poverty, many of whom have been left hopeless and ill by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that occurred in 1986.
“We may perform for as many as 350 children who are there being decontaminated,” Garrett said. “Ninety-five percent of the people are sick.”
Garrett ships warm sweaters, baby blankets and other items in advance of her trip. Many end up in “mommy bags” filled with supplies needed for newborns.
“In Papilnia, it’s the poorest region,” Garrett said. “That’s where the mommy bags go. The mommy bags are keeping children from being aborted. They don’t prepare for babies because the death rate exceeds the survival rate three to one. If they can abort the baby, they think it’s better for them because there is no way they can take care of them. It’s so freezing cold over there and they don’t have anything warm.”
Garrett’s stories fuel Whatley’s prolific knitting.
“When we met Pinky and realized this was quite personal—she could tell us about the trip, she took pictures of the people there and told us the story—and you heard the story, it was heartbreaking,” Whatley said. “That really makes you know that what you’re doing is well worthwhile, if only more people would do it. I said (to Garrett), ‘Are you making any headway?’ She said, ‘Oh, I wish you hadn’t asked that question, but if we save one child, we’ve done something.’”
And so Whatley knits and she recruits others to do the same. She knows each stitch may mean the difference between bone-chilling cold and warmth that enables a child to go to school, between a baby placed on the street to be collected by an orphanage worker and a child who is swaddled in his mother’s home.
“It’s what you get inside of you,” Whatley said. “It’s the feeling of knowing what you’ve done. Look what a life we’ve had and here at 80-something I can still give back. When you get older, people don’t really notice you’re there, so you just sit on the corner. Well, I sit there with my knitting.”
There are opportunities to fill “mommy bags” and gift boxes for orphaned children in Ukraine. For more information, call The Master’s Mission (864) 456-3055.