Church knitters share bears with the world

December 24, 2004|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

BLUE RIDGE SUMMIT, Pa. - A group of church ladies in Blue Ridge Summit, handy with knitting needles, started with Teddy for Tragedy, followed with teddies for children in hospitals and Teddies for the Christmas Child and ended up with teddies for Iraq.

"We started because we wanted to do something for our church," Sara Shoemaker said.

"We wanted to knit altar cloths and kneelers but it's turned into an outreach ministry," Joan Burton said.

The two women and more than a dozen like them belong to the Needlework Guild of the Church of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal church in Blue Ridge Summit and its sister church, Calvary Chapel in Beartown, Pa. Both are served by The Rev. Bart Berry.

This season, the women, most of whom have knitted all their lives, sent gaily colored teddy bears to hospitalized children in war-torn Iraq.


The women's knitting ministry began two years ago when Jean Lengel was vacationing in Nova Scotia. She visited an Episcopal church and learned that women there were knitting teddy bears to send to hospitalized children in Third World countries.

"Joan started to knit teddy bears like crazy," Burton said. Her fellow guild members joined in and soon the Blue Ridge Summit women had knitted and sent more than 100 teddy bears to the church in Nova Scotia.

The women then decided that, since charity begins at home, they would knit teddy bears for area fire and police departments for the Teddy for Tragedy program. Police officers and firefighters carry the teddy bears in their vehicles to give to children at accidents, fires and other tragedies.

The needleworkers began to knit hats and scarves for the Red Cross, for the Seamen's Church Institute of New York & New Jersey which cares for mariners between ship assignments, and for area nursing and assisted living facilities.

The Iraq connection came about when Deanna Cox's boyfriend, Spc. David Davidson, who is serving with the 125th Signal Battalion in northern Iraq, told her that he saw 15 hospitalized children sharing a single toy. Deanna Cox's mother, Vicky Cox, helps with the church's knitting projects.

The women turned their needles on teddy bears and more than 25 were soon on their way to Iraq.

The knitting project is "like yeast," Shoemaker said. "It just keeps growing."

Relatives and friends of the women learn what they're doing and join in.

Edna Flohr, a member of the group, has a sister in Tennessee who knits bears and hats and sends them to the group.

"People are pitching in from everywhere," Shoemaker said. "Women sit in front of the television and knit."

"I get up, have two cups of coffee and start knitting every morning," Burton said. "I knit whenever I get a chance."

Burton said anyone wishing to help in the knitting project or who wants to donate yarn can call her at 717-642-5112.

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