GLADSTONE - Lost mittens, wet mittens and mittens forgotten at home are no longer a problem for the dozens of youngsters in the kindergarten and kindergarten readiness classrooms at the Cameron School in Gladstone, thanks to the thoughtfulness of a Foster Grandmother in one of the kindergarten classes.
After "Gramma" June Anderson put out a call for help, two area women, Irene Chernick and Mary Ann Chouinard, stepped up and, between the two of them, prepared the 60 pairs of hand-knitted and crocheted mittens that were brought to the school before the Christmas holiday. They were divided equally and are now safety tucked away in boxes in the three classrooms ready for the youngsters to use whenever needed.
"I saw that so many of the children didn't have mittens for recess," said Anderson. "Otherwise, they had used them earlier in the day and they were too wet to wear at noon or during afternoon recess. Either way, their fingers would have been frozen. I was so worried that it was getting colder and these kids had no warm mittens to wear. I've even loaned out my own pair for the kids to wear outside."
Dorothy McKnight | Daily Press
June Anderson, a Foster Grandparent in the kindergarten classroom of Jennifer Walker at Cameron Elementary School in Gladstone, arranged to have local volunteers make handmade mittens for the youngsters in her classroom, as well as the second kindergarten class and a readiness class. The mittens are loaned out to students whose own mittens are misplaced or too wet to wear during recess outdoors.
Anderson was a woman on a mission. She contacted Theresa Nelson, director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), and asked if Nelson could locate any area seniors who would be willing to lend a hand and make mittens for the youngsters.
So how did "Gramma" feel about the response?
"I was overwhelmed," she said. "I called Theresa in the morning and by the time I got home that afternoon, there was already a message from her on my answering machine saying she had found two women who were willing to make some mittens. I was prepared to supply the yarn for the two ladies, but I was told that each of them had their own supply."
In addition to the mittens, Anderson said a number of hats - both handmade and purchased - have also been donated to the school project. The mittens and hats will be left in each classroom so the youngsters can use them whenever needed.
Both Chernick and Chouinard feel it was a priviledge to be help out.
"When you live alone, the nights are long and you can't just watch TV," said Chernick. "I have to try and keep my hands busy. I knit them using four needles and it takes about four or four and a half hours to make a pair of mittens."
Chernick said she has donated 115 pairs of mittens to various agencies in recent months and has already started preparing for next winter's need.
It was by coincidence that Chouinard learned about the need.
"I was volunteering at the Community Action Agency in personal care and happened to run into Theresa," Chouinard said. "Theresa knew I had made mittens for the Head Start Program and she told me that there was a lady at the Cameron School who would appreciate having some mittens made."
Chouinard inquired about the size of the mittens that would be needed (sizes 6-7 and 8-9) and immediately put her crochet hook to work.
Chouinard has been making mittens for Head Start youngsters for almost four years and, in addition to her new project, still continues to do so. In fact, she has gotten her sister involved in the project.
"She's made a bunch of hats," Chouinard said. "She sews them and has been sharing the pattern for the sewn hats for anyone else who wants to make them."
Anderson, who has been a Foster Grandmother for more than nine years, said she is happy to help not only the children in her kindergarten classroom, but the other youngsters at the school as well.
"That's my life now - to help children," she said. "This is my joy. If everyone would give just one hour a day for a child, we would have a much better world."
Likewise, both Chernick and Chouinard feel it's important for individuals - including themselves - to become involved in activities that benefit their community, particularly when it involves children.
"It's just a labor of love," said Chernick. "I have lots of yarn and really enjoy doing it. They are fun to make and it's very gratifying to work on something they (the children) can use."
Chouinard expressed similar sentiments.
"I think we're very fortunate that we live in such a giving community," she said. "There are people who are always willing to do it. As for myself, I feel that if God gives you a talent, why not use that talent for God's children?"