Knitters make students hats, scarves, mittens

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November 16, 2007
— Santa Claus came in the shape of grandmas Wednesday morning at Wilson Elementary School.

Instead of toys, the jolly women wearing red hats delivered handmade knit caps, scarves and mittens to all 48 second-graders at the school. The ladies also brought another 10 sets for new and incoming students.

It’s an 8-year tradition with the women, all members of Janesville’s Knitting Grandmas.

“Knitting and crocheting love into every stitch provides comfort to school children, veterans, hospice patients and newborns,” said Paulette Remillard, coordinator of the group.

The annual visit gives the students the opportunity to ask questions and chat about school in the “olden days,” Remillard said.

“Where do you get all the yarn and needles to knit?’’ one girl asked.

“It’s donated from leftovers by (people in) the community,” Remillard said.

Knitting Grandma Diane Rensberry wanted to know how many of the students assembled were wearing blue jeans. After most raised their hands, 55-year-old Rensberry told them she couldn’t wear denim when she was in school.

“Girls had to wear skirts or dresses. Boys had to wear nice shirts and pants like you wear to church.”

Wilson alumna Kay Nordlee, who shared her story of trying to kiss a boy who hit her and gave her a bloody nose, had students turning up their noses.

“I got blood all over my favorite dress but the teacher helped me clean up,” she said, as the children reacted with a loud “Eeeuuuuwww.”

Once all the stories were told and all questions were answered, the students got to their favorite part of the program—picking the knit set of their choice.

Breonna Burhans Walls, 7, chose the rainbow-colored hat, scarf and mittens, then professed how good they felt as she wore her new hat for everyone to see. She rubbed the palm of her hands up and down the scarf, which draped around her neck.

Hope Miller, 7, picked the blue, red, green and yellow set “’cause my Grandma made me a blanket with these same colors when I was little.”

Theodore Rickman, 8, selected the green and gold set, proudly admitting he’s a fan of the Green Bay Packers and Brett Favre.

After the students and Knitting Grandmas posed for a picture together, they shared hugs and shouts of “Thank you!”

Remillard summed up the experience: “It’s the best form of volunteerism ’cause we can interact with the students.”

Teacher Sheri Mullooly was just as excited about the Knitting Grandmas as her students.

“A lot of our kids don’t know their grandparents. This gives them the opportunity to bond. Many come with hats and mittens, but seldom new.’’

Principal Ann Lund said the ongoing collaboration and relationship with the Knitting Grandmas provides her students an example of how people can demonstrate caring.

“The children need and enjoy not only the warm hats, mittens and scarves, but they also need and enjoy the smiles, kind words, and thoughtfulness of the adults who serve as models in motivating them to care about others,” Lund said.

Helping others

The Janesville Knitting Grandmas also knit and crochet items that are delivered to:

-- Mercy Hospital’s Nursery, which includes a monthly delivery of pink and blue newborn baby caps plus “event caps” for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

-- Rock Haven’s veterans will receive red, white and blue lap robes, afghans, caps and patriotic wreaths in December to thank them for their service to America.

-- Don and Marilyn Anderson HospiceCare Center patients in Fitchburg will receive prayer shawls, cancer caps, lap robes and afghans in December. In-home hospice patients also will receive handmade items stitched with love.


The Janesville Knitting Grandmas meet from 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays in the Fellowship Hall of Garden Court Apartments, 208 N. Main St., Janesville. Yarn donations are welcome.

For more information, call Paulette Remillard at (608) 752-6549.

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