Every Thursday is a giving day for the Crafty Ladies

"Made for a special person by the Crafty Ladies of Queen Anne," say the tags on a vast array of items: knit and Polartec hats of many styles, crocheted blankets, cotton bonnets, quilts of all sizes, baby sweaters, prayer scarves and knit pocket-sized animals.

Though the tags don't say so, each maker has a name: Mary Hulka and Edith Stanwood (knitters), Doris Moser (who sews) and Clara Jennings (a quilter), to name but a few of the dozen Crafty Ladies who meet every Thursday afternoon at the Queen Anne Community Center.

One purpose of the group is to socialize. "We chat about a marvelous range of subjects," says their hostess, Pat Barger. But the main reason they gather is to knit, crochet, sew, embroider and quilt - all for several good causes.

Aug. 17 was Giving Day, when the Crafty Ladies donated 406 items to three charities: the University of Washington's Beauty & Cancer Program, Children's Hospital & Regional Medical Center and the Family Services Baby Boutique.

The Crafty Ladies began as an offshoot of S.P.I.C.E. (School Programs Involving Community Elders), a now-defunct, federally funded nutrition program for seniors. Seniors lunched in the McClure Middle School cafeteria and participated in intergenera-tional projects with McClure students, mostly art projects. There was also a two-way tutoring program in which the old helped the young with academics and the young taught the old how to use computers.

The ladies also made lots of things for themselves - jackets out of sweatshirts and such. But they tired of doing just that.

In 2002, a new focus presented itself.

At the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Barger saw a basket of commercially made hats. "They were ugly and shabby," she says. Then she saw a batch of brochures about U.W.'s Beauty & Cancer Program, put there by its director, Irene Hopkins. Barger telephoned Hopkins, initiating a flow of thousands of handmade hats to the program.

"These ladies have been so consistent," says Hopkins, "a constant help to us. They have become almost a brand name now. Patients ask, 'Where can I get another of those Crafty Ladies hats?'"

Cancer is not only a devastating diagnosis and its treatment grueling, it changes how a patient feels about themselves and how others treat them. With Crafty Ladies hats, as well as wigs that are also available from the Beauty & Cancer Program, patients experiencing hair loss can "get over the appearance aspect and get on with the business of getting well," says Hopkins.

Transplant patients also benefit from the labors of the Crafty Ladies. Some patients are in the hospital for three months or more, and can choose a Crafty Ladies quilt for their own. "It makes their room a little more homey," says Hopkins, "the experience a little more comfortable."

On Giving Day, as hands kept busy with their craft and cookies were passed around, Hopkins thanked the group. "I'm really dependent on you ladies," she said. "You've made a huge, huge difference."

The other recipients were equally grateful. "Your work touches our families so deeply," said Nancy Schenck, a volunteer with Children's Hospital who serves on the board of directors of the hospital's Guild Association. "No matter how technologically advanced we are," she said, "we're not giving our all without the human element."

Pointing to the tables of neatly arranged, colorful items, Schenck said, "All those items touch a heart. Many children who repeatedly visit our hospital always wear their Crafty Ladies Lucky Cap.

"Doing the extraordinary," she said, "sometimes means doing just a bit extra. Thank you so much."

Jennifer Haley concurred. Haley is the program coordinator and only employee of the Family Services Baby Boutique, which provides free essential items like clothing, diapers and car seats to homeless children. It opened in 1995, more than 100 years after its parent agency, Family Services. Ninety local agencies refer clients to the boutique, which serves about 200 families with young children per month.

Haley invited the Crafty Ladies and readers alike to visit the boutique in its new location in Denny Center. "It's a cute little 'store,'" she said. It promises to be cuter, and to serve more families, with its new inventory from the Crafty Ladies.

If you wish to donate materials or pattern books to the Crafty Ladies, call 684-4240. If you wish to donate anything related to kids or maternity to the Family Services Baby Boutique, call 902-4270.

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