Riverview Charity Stitchers knit and crochet thousands of items for charity

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Shelly Birkelo
Wednesday, December 25, 2013

JANESVILLE—After reading a story about the need at Parker Closet to help disadvantaged students at Parker High School, Riverview Charity Stitchers stitched together 130 items for delivery.

They provided 51 washcloths packed with toiletries, and they gave hats, mittens, scarves and headbands. Parker Closet provides needy students with everything from school supplies to toiletries.

The local high school students are among many recipients of help from Riverview Charity Stitchers.

Co-founder Anne Reed, an experienced and talented knitter, hasn't kept count since she and the late Mary Teft started the group in 1995, but Reed knows more than 2,147 items made by the local group of stitchers have helped those in need just this year, including:

-- Women and children who live at YWCA Rock County's shelter for battered women

-- Men at the GIFTS homeless shelter

-- Homeless teens

-- Residents at House of Mercy

-- Oncology patients at Riverview Clinic of Dean Medical Center and Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center

The knitters and crocheters, who live at Riverview Heights Apartments or elsewhere in the community, initially made items for children of the Hoh Indian Reservation in Forks, Wash; premature babies; the homeless in Rock County; and the foster care program at Love Inc of Rock County.

But projects for worthy causes have changed to help others in need, Reed said.

“We switched to serving homeless people, battered women and to chemo patients,” she said.

The stitchers would love to serve more people but can't keep up with need.

“We never have enough cotton yarn to make wash cloths and always have to go buy more,” she said.

The stitchers even held a bake sale to earn money on top of making their own contributions to buy more yarn and toiletries to stuff the washcloths, Reed said.

“We just do what we can,” Reed said.

It is Reed's hope that more stitchers will join the group.

“More hands mean more help in the community, ” she said.

The number of projects continues to grow.

“It gets larger every year and warms your heart to see these women so happy to contribute. I think it gives them a reason to get up,” Reed said.

For some stitchers, it's hard to get out of bed or walk with walkers.

“I'm so pleased with the effort. We want to help people in need because we are so fortunate ourselves,” Reed said.

Giving something handmade shows the love of the stitchers helping people, she said.

“We could go buy off the shelf, but this means so much more to us. When we're making items, we're thinking of these people and whom we're going to help,” Reed said.

Erin Loveland, House of Mercy executive director, agreed:

“For residents, that means someone cares enough to sit down and make something handmade. They really feel touched when they see something handmade,” she said.

The toiletries also fill a big need for House of Mercy residents, Loveland said.

“A lot of people come and don't have anything,” she said. “We have linens they can use but not something they could take with. Those toiletries and those gifts are so important to them.”

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