By Traci LeBrun
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Locals help keep children warm this holiday season


December 7, 2017

Cheryl Burns, Tammy Burch and Karen Carlson prepare the sweaters, hats and mittens for their new homes.

"As my grandmother always said, idle hands are the devil's playground," quips Joyce Tabor as she helps fill two large boxes with custom knit sweaters and winter wear for children in Pine County. "I like to stay busy which is one reason I wanted to help with this cause."

Helping her fill the boxes is Cheryl Burns, the founder of the knitting project. Burns has been a knitting instructor for years and gathered fellow knitters to make sweaters, hats, blankets, mittens, and socks that will be given to Pine County families, through Pine County Public Health, as gifts over the Christmas season.

The women have been gathering at Quarry Quilts & Yarns every Thursday to knit, and some come to learn to knit for a good cause. The project began last year when Burns began knitting hats for a friend who had cancer. "It's really difficult, and they want to look nice," says Burns. "Tammy (Burch) knew about the Pine County family home visiting program and saw a need."

"We gave them (Pine County Family Home Visiting) a few things last year," adds Burns. "They were so excited about getting them that I thought we would continue, and I never dreamed we would get this many sweaters."

The sweaters Burns refers to, each have a one of a kind, handmade design like something you would see in a trendy boutique. The textures and colors represent the personalities of their crafters.

"Some people were so creative," observes Karen Carlson. "When they ran out of yarn, they got real creative and started a new color scheme that worked out beautifully."

The yarn was either donated to Quarry Quilts & Yarns or by people who didn't know what to do with their old yarn and bought it in to the shop. The sweaters are mostly knitted with acrylic yarn to make them more washable and easy to care for.

The group decided to make small sweaters, according to Burns, knowing that as children get older, they become more self-conscious and often want to choose their own store-bought outfits.

"It's really great that it's locally made, and it's going to local people," says Tammy Burch. "It feels good to give back to the community. I look forward to the learning and we've all become friends and encourage each other to keep learning more about knitting."

"It has been a wonderful experience to be involved and watching the others and giving," adds Karen Carlson, who is just a beginner in knitting and mostly has come to observe.

Other members of the team include: Jane Waletzko, Linda Van Der Werf, Sandy Riki, Inga Suista, Vicky Aldridge, Markey Dwyer, Roxanne Heaton, Pat Prestegord, and Toni Groe.

Jessica Fehlen, a Pine County RN and Maternal Child Health Team Lead, said that the home visiting nurses will bring the items during their home visits to the families who have just had a baby.

"Last year, families were really appreciative knowing that someone in the community cared enough to do something like this for them," says Fehlen, adding that one of her clients still regularly uses a custom knitted basket to hold their baby supplies.

One family, A Hispanic family who speaks very little English, left a mark on Fehlen. "We had given them a sweater. They were so excited, and put it on right away," adds Fehlen. "There was little they could say in English but you could see their deep gratitude in their actions and all over their faces."

"This is a lot of fun for us to bring something special like this out to our families," says Fehlen.


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