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These Southland women are close-knit for a cause

Doris PattersFrancis Smith Rosemary CaPhyllis Dix display 30 handmade lap robes Worth Township hall. They helped make robes for veterans

Doris Patterson, Francis Smith, Rosemary Cain and Phyllis Dix display 30 handmade lap robes at the Worth Township hall. They helped make the robes for veterans at the Manteno Veterans Home. | Jaime Angio~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 18, 2014 6:17AM



The ladies who take Frances Smith’s knitting and crochet classes at Worth Township look forward to Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

It’s on those days, in the senior citizens room, where creativity has no limits as they mix colors of yarn and create and choose appropriate patterns for their projects during two-hour classes.

In between high-powered discussions, conversations on current events, recipe exchanges and coffee with the occasional piece of cake and friendship, a combined effort by nearly 40 women was made to provide veterans at the Manteno Veterans’ Home — and also at Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines — with handmade lap robes.

Smith, 89, of Alsip, has been teaching knitting and crocheting at Worth Township for eight years. She said she wanted to do something to help other people.

“We were looking for something to do,” Smith said. “We wanted to be some kind of help, and I came up with a lap robe. I read somewhere that (veterans who use wheelchairs) needed the lap robes because the longer ones get caught in the wheels of the wheelchair, so that’s how we got started on it.”

The women started making the lap robes in classes in October. They planned to hand-deliver the robes to the veterans as soon as weather permits safe passage on the roads.

“This group of robes is going to Manteno and the next group is going to Hines, and we’re going to keep making them,” Smith said.

The ladies, like a knitting and crocheting sisterhood, all get along and thoroughly enjoyed taking part in making the lap robes.

“I feel like it’s a handpicked group because there isn’t anybody that I didn’t like,” said Doris Patterson, 79, of Orland Park.

Patterson is in Smith’s knitting class.

“It’s great; everybody is amiable and we’ve learned a lot about people, and sometimes we show them (their work) to each other, sometimes we don’t,” she said.

“We’ve had donations or sometimes I’ll just go and buy clearance yarn, because sometimes it’s more fun to work with the colors that you’re working with. So that’s what I did, something I wanted to work with,” she said.

Rosemary Cain, 66, of Oak Forest, is in Smith’s crocheting class.

“I started one (lap robe) and I thought, ‘Oh, this is great. It went fast,’ and I completed three,” she said.

Phyllis Dix, 73, of Oak Lawn, is in the knitting class. Dix, a retired registered nurse, understands the importance of a lap robe.

“I worked in long-term (care) facilities and these are fabulous for the patients and they can cover their knees and their laps, and they’re comfortable,” she said.

The women also made bonnets and caps for infants, donating them to Christ Medical Center, Little Company of Mary Hospital, and St. Francis Hospital.

Smith and the others are going to continue to help people with their handmade garments. And if they can’t make it to class, it’s OK.

“We tease if we can’t make it,” Dix said. “We don’t have to call in sick or come in with a note from Mother. If you’re free, you come, and nobody has to feel guilty if they can’t come. It’s a fun thing.”

For Smith, teaching her classes at Worth Township is rewarding.

“I can’t sit and do nothing; I have to be doing something,” she said. “We have such a happy group, and I enjoy all the people in my classes and what we do. It gives you a good feeling inside.”



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