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The Kneedlers at Woodland Pond Retirement Community

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Twice a month, in a cozy room outfitted with a few comfy chairs and a couch, a fireplace, and a view of New Paltz’s surrounding mountains, seven ladies from the Kneedlers knitting group gather at the Woodland Pond retirement community in New Paltz. They chat quietly amongst themselves, needles in hand, never missing a stitch. They laugh at inside jokes and compliment one another on their colorful knitted creations. But there’s more going on here than a simple pastime.

Inspired by her three grandsons serving in the military, Dorothy Wahl started the Kneedlers in 2010 as a way to give back to members of the armed forces by knitting much-needed items for veterans.

Since then, the Kneedlers have stitched more than 60 afghans and lap robes for veterans served by the Castle Point Campus of the VA Hudson Valley Health Care System, more than 20 hats for school children and for women undergoing chemotherapy, plus an additional 20 afghans for the women’s shelter in New Paltz. Today, the ladies are in the process of knitting baby clothes for female veterans with newborns. “Our goal is to help those less fortunate,” says Jean MacAvery, head of the group.

One member, Bernice Hummel, describes a mutual payoff: “We help the community but we also have something to do. It occupies our time and it’s very fruitful. It’s a win-win on both sides.”

The group meets twice a month, so most of the knitting and crocheting is done on members’ own time. Hummel says she can sit down at night with her needles and yarn, watch some TV, and finish a hat or a scarf before bed. Occasionally, people will stop by during meetings, offering suggestions for new groups to donate to. Donations are wrapped and sent to those in need with a note from the Woodland Pond group.

“Everyone is really grateful,” says Kneedler Jean Cohn. “We’ve gotten some lovely letters telling us we bring color and light into their lives.”

The ladies even have their own booth at Woodland Pond’s annual Kaleidoscope of the Arts Show, where patrons can purchase the group’s knitted creations. Some of the money earned goes to buying supplies.

So, what’s their advice for all the first-time knitters out there? MacAvery says the trick is to do it long enough until it becomes relaxing, and to try not to get frustrated. “Start with something small,” she says. “That way you can see all you’ve achieved fairly quickly.” She says YouTube is also a great teacher.

“It’s not hard at all, really!” says one Kneedler.“Our mothers taught us and we can teach you!”

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