Love in their fingers
DONALD R. SERFASS/TIMES NEWS Tamaqua area volunteer knitters seen here Tuesday night have been spending hours producing Memory Squares from skeins of yarn. The squares will be assembled into quilts for victims of the Sandy Hook shooting. From left are Cindy Miller, Susan Bonner, Jill Leader and Lorraine Blickley. Missing is Debbie McKinley.
A humble group of Tamaqua area women volunteers, who call themselves the "Knit-Wits," are spending hours in volunteer service to a town they've never visited and people they've never met.
The five women have banded together to knit dozens of colorful, creative acrylic wool squares measuring six inches by six inches.
The squares, or patches, will be used to create blankets of warmth and a touch of love for victims of the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn.
A total of 96 Memory Squares is required to create one blanket. The group has not established a particular goal but will knit as many squares as possible in their knit sessions and during their free hours each day.
A spokesperson for the group says the idea started with a media broadcast promoting the concept of a knitting project to benefit shooting victims.
"I saw it on WNEP, a story about doing Memory Squares for Newtown," says Jill Leader, McAdoo.
Leader teamed with friend Cindy Miller, West Penn Township, wife of Todd Miller of Tamaqua M & S Hardware. Cindy Miller is proprietor of Summershanty Fiber Arts, a yarn, supply and instruction center operating in the second floor of the Tamaqua hardware store.
With Miller's support, the initiative began to soar, bolstered by the talent and generosity of volunteer knitters Susan Bonner, West Penn Township; Debbie McKinley, Hometown; and Lorraine Blickley, Barnesville.
But other knitters are invited to take part. Members were reluctant to be the subject of publicity, but agreed to have their photo taken Tuesday only if it may serve to notify others that the project is under way and that additional support is welcome.
For those who crochet instead of knit, Granny Squares are also being collected for the same purpose.
At the end of January, the squares will be sent to Newtown for assembly. Each set of 96 squares will combine to create a blanket 4-foot by 6-foot.
"They'll put it together in Connecticut," says Blickley, the former Lorraine Zukovich.
Afterward, a distribution plan will be finalized for the final phase of the project, a demonstration of compassion for those whose lives are forever altered by the tragedy.
That final stage will be coordinated by volunteers in Newtown.
The Tamaqua Knit-Wits are part of a national, even international, program called Memory Blankets for CT families, which has an eponymous Facebook page.
"We are focusing on the families of those who lost loved ones. The school will be second. We would like to provide a little comfort to each of the remaining faculty and students there," says administrator Heather Bowling.
"The response teams will come third (fire department, EMTs, and police officers)."
Bowling says in a perfect world there would be a blanket for each person affected by the tragedy, although that goal might be unrealistic.
Miller says those interested in helping are welcome to stop at the second floor of M & S Hardware, 10 West Broad St., to see what a finished square looks like.
"If they don't know how to do it, they can stop by and pick up a pattern," for production of squares, Miller explains.
Similarly, if anyone has completed squares and isn't sure what to do with them, they can be dropped off at the same location.
The local women hope their gesture of concern will help families of Newtown understand that people everywhere have been deeply moved by the events at Sandy Hook, and that the resulting pain and suffering is shared and universal.