Afghan makers spread warmth

December 13, 2002|by PEPPER BALLARD

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of stories running on the 12 days before Christmas to recognize individuals and groups who make the holidays better for others.

Santa Claus will bring something warm this year to patients at the Western Maryland Hospital Center in Hagerstown.

The patients at the chronic-care hospital will get lap afghans and blankets, thanks to Marie Noell, who turned a spring project into a Christmas mission.

Noell, 58, and a team of others turned out afghans and blankets for 90 Western Maryland Hospital Center residents.

Noell in May approached Sharron Silvers, Western Maryland Hospital Center's volunteer coordinator, with three afghans, hoping the rehabilitation center could use them.

She had been making baby hats and afghans for new mothers at Washington County Hospital, but the hospital told Noell not to donate them anymore because the yarn material of the blankets couldn't be continually washed and reused.


After a Tai-Chi class at the Western Maryland Hospital Center, Noell noticed a woman in a wheelchair boarding a van. She had an afghan over her lap.

She took a few blankets to the hospital and Silvers not only accepted them, but expressed the wish that each resident could have one.

"I said, 'It's only May and I have until Christmas,'" Noell said.

She began by calling friends and fellow crocheters and quilters.

Bonnie Hagerman, who heads Care Wear, a volunteer group that knits hats for premature babies, donated some supplies for the laprobes. Mount Zion Lutheran Church in Rohrersville provided sewers and knitters, and Sharpsburg Lutheran Church in Sharpsburg provided crocheters.

Noell even made it a family affair, calling on sisters Betty Shaffer, 67, and Jane Camden, 66, who made a total of 58 afghans.

"We did a lot more than we needed," she said. Noell said the hospital will use all the group created.

Noell said all involved tried to vary the colors used, but emphasized making darker colored blankets for men and pastel colored blankets for women.

"I think it's a larger gift than most," she said. "It's something handmade and someone took the time to make that for them."

Noell said a few employees at Wal-Mart were particularly helpful, with some dipping into their own wallets to donate money to purchase knitting supplies at the craft counter. Some gave up their lunch money to help.

"Very big-hearted ladies," Noell said.

Noell said she began knitting at age 9.

A retired bookkeeper, Noell said when she was a young girl, adults would tell her if she kept crocheting she would never have problems with her hands.

Now, she wears a copper magnet bracelet for arthritis.

She said the pain in her fingers doesn't slow her from working on three crochet projects at one time.

"I keep on crocheting," she said. "I figure it's going to hurt either way."

Tomorrow: Carolyn Brooks, director of the Maryland HotSpot Initiative in Hagerstown

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