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Sewing lap blankets is mission for duo

December 13, 1999

Christmas Angels: Day 12

Sewing lap blankets is mission for duo

Christmas AngelsBy ANDREA BROWN-HURLEY / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




MAUGANSVILLE - It all starts at Frances Bargiel's "command post" in the living room of her Maugansville home.

cont. from front page

Yarn? Check.

Needle? Check.

Zapper? Check.

Phone? Check.

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Seated in the red recliner surrounded by these essential tools - the "zapper" is the TV remote - Bargiel, 73, continues the charitable mission upon which she and her friend, Eleanor Smith, 75, have embarked for the past three years.

Working through arthritis, the women crochet lap blankets for various organizations in the Tri-State area.

"It's God's intervention," Bargiel said. "It's not anything we do alone. It keeps us moving."

Bargiel and Smith have donated nearly 40 of the colorful rectangles to such agencies as the Community Free Clinic and Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused in Hagerstown, Washington County Hospital, the Veteran's Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va., and numerous area nursing homes.

They also donate blankets for school raffles, and crochet-to-order larger afghans, for which they accept $30 checks made payable directly to charitable groups.

Bargiel's bathroom cabinets and laundry room cupboards are stuffed with color-coded boxes of yarn, but she and Smith have never had to buy a single spool for their cause.

"I have angels that will drop off a bag at my front door or my back door," Bargiel said.

One New Jersey woman even read about the crochet crusade in a religious publication, and sent a large box of new yarn to Bargiel's home by United Parcel Service, she said.

"The reason we have such beautiful colors is the conglomeration of people donating," Bargiel said.

She and Smith are both retired from Tri-State Electric and crocheted blankets independently for years. They joined forces after Bargiel asked Smith if she knew anyone who could stitch the small squares together.

"I didn't like doing that part," Bargiel said. "It's like the Russell Stover's candy people - one likes the cremes and the other likes the caramels."

So Bargiel starts the process by sorting through her boxes of yarn and employing her husband as a "detangler," she said.

She then creates from the yarn dozens of "granny squares," which she gives by the garbage bagful to Smith during their weekly exercise class for people with arthritis.

Then Smith sorts the squares into color patterns, edges them together with a single color of yarn, finishes the lap blankets with a decorative stitch around the perimeter, and returns the finished products to Bargiel.

It takes about 20 hours to complete one lap blanket.

The work is worthwhile both because of the smiles it brings to the blanket recipients and the sense of purpose it lends Smith and Bargiel, they said.

The work keeps the women comfortably busy in their own homes on their own time with such amenities as their televisions, remote controls (zappers) and telephones nearby, they said.

Crocheting also helps keep their arthritic fingers nimble, Smith said.

"It's addictive," Bargiel said.

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