Stop by Beaumont Hospital in Troy any first Monday of the month between 1 and 3 p.m., and chances are you’ll see a bunch of “Knit Wits” sitting behind the main entrance area busily knitting and crocheting for a good cause.
The Knit Wits is made up of 10 women, somewhere between the ages of 50-70, who’ve been volunteering their knitting and crocheting skills for the past five years to make items to help keep patients warm in the hospital’s oncology, bariatric, pediatric, cardiac and hospice departments.
“We (also) like to have a supply of red, white and blue blankets for veteran patients,” said Davison resident Susan MacDonald, a crocheter who has served as the group’s organizer the past couple years.
Many years ago, Beaumont had a knitting group that disbanded, then came back together, she said. She was a volunteer at the hospital when she joined the current group because she loves to crochet, and feels giving patients handmade items is “a nice touch.”
“I believe they (the first group) started out with the cancer department because they needed blankets and shawls to keep patients warm. It’s more personal to have something that’s handmade,” she said.
Membership is open to anyone, and the meetings are rather informal. Sometimes, someone will bring a snack to share with other members as they each work on their project of choice.
“You make whatever you want,” said MacDonald. And, patients sometimes find it hard to believe the handmade item is actually for them to take home.
Each item given to patients comes with a hang tag that reads, “This was made by a volunteer and is yours to keep. We hope it brings you comfort.”
Members also work on their projects between meetings. “We knit and crochet at home, and then when we’re done with the project, everybody brings in their finished work.” Sometimes items are shared with the hospice unit at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
“Volunteers express care and compassion when they provide the personal gift of a handmade blanket, shawl, cap or specialty item. Whether a new baby, young child or adult, when you wrap a blanket around them you are sharing a warm embrace,” said Beth Frydlewicz, system director of Beaumont Health Volunteer Services. “The impact doesn’t stop there, as many of these items become an heirloom to families. The Knit Wits, and all the Beaumont craft groups, are a part of the patient’s journey and essential to our team.”
Members of the Knit Wits are Jane Finazzo of Clawson; Joanna Winter, Rochester Hills; Leslie Gierke, Troy; Maggie Mattei, Shelby Township; Suzanne Clarkston, Clarkston; Carrie Starr, Shelby Township; Deborah Silverman, Bloomfield Township; Nancy Winay, Troy; and Betsy Stephanic, Clarkston.
Silverman said, “Each member contributes not only time and talent, but they also purchase a lot of yarn and other supplies.” However, the more yarn they have, the more patients they can help keep warm, so donations are welcome. “Anybody can help us,” said MacDonald.
If interested, individuals can donate (new) yarn, money to purchase yarn, or hand knitted/crocheted items to be given to patients. They ask that you don’t put buttons or fringe on the items, and that all the pieces be made with machine washable yarns, like acrylic. In addition to adult blankets and shawls, items needed include chemo hats, scarves, lap robes and blankets and hats for babies and preemies.
To make a donation, contact the volunteer office at Beaumont Hospital in Troy by calling (248) 964-5045, or mail items to: Beaumont Hospital, Volunteer Services, 44201 Dequindre, Troy, MI 48085.
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact the Knit Wits at (248) 964-5045.