Marymount Manor residents get together each Wednesday to knit items for charity.

It really shouldn’t be surprising that when you get a bunch of women together, you get a lot of noise.  Well and food.  Lots of food.  Although the noise thing is a pretty good factor, too.  Which doesn’t bode well to the idea that all these women, 18-20 of them each Wednesday afternoon, are doing so in order to knit for charity.  But knit they do.  A year ago in June, Georgie Springer and several residents from Marymount Manor, 317 152nd St E, in Spanaway decided to knit for charity.  They knit lap robes for nursing homes and hats for chemo patients, particularly men as there is a need for them.  They knit baby blankets and baby booties and scarves.  “In the first three months,” said Patricia Marvin, “we made 300 pieces.”

As you can imagine, all those pieces require patterns and few people like to do the same thing over and over again so Springer is always looking for more patterns.   Then someone sent her an article cut from a newspaper and on the back was an article about plarn.  Plarn comes from plastic bags that have been cut into strips.  The strips are then knit or crocheted, just like yarn, into items such as hats, sandals and mats.  The ladies make mats to keep homeless folks off the ground.  The mats also generate or reflect heat.  The additional benefit to plarn is that it’s abundantly available at no cost.  It takes 700 bags to make a mat.  That’s 700 bags that don’t see the landfill, or float ghostlike through the landscape

Anyone can join the group.  You don’t even have to knit.  Barbara Riffle said she’s the mascot and that at 83 years old, she sees her job as keeping the rest in line.   And Janie Hildahl rolls yarn and untangles skeins because, “I was a big tom boy and never learned to knit.”  She adds though that it’s “nice to get together with the girls.” Debbie Walters “rolls the yarn for the girls” and cuts strips.  “I’m left handed,” she said, “and it’s hard for me to do.  It’s just something nice to do in the afternoon…get together and gossip.”  Of course there is a lot of laughter as well.  Char Bowman suggested that the article should be called, “When old ladies go wild.”

Of course someone has to do the work of crocheting or knitting.  Marvin said she’s been crocheting since 1963 and that it’s good for her arthritis.  Ethel Haddentan specializes in crocheting blocks for afghans.  Nadine Abbott knits and crochets and has been doing both for decades.  She makes mittens and repairs and finishes other projects.  She also lauds the health benefits of hand work.  She was in a car accident and her cousin brought her some yarn, needles and instructions.

Judie Denoo prefers to multi-task.  “I cause a lot of trouble.  I’ve been a knitter and then Char (Bowman) taught me how to crochet.  My main job is to put together the squares.”  Denoo added, “We‘ve had family members come in.  I’ve had my granddaughter come in.  She’s just started and she’s better than all of us.”

Denoo and Springer are neighbors.   Springer has the yarn and Denoo hs the finished product.  “Wall to wall yarn,” added Springer.  “Thank God for my computer.”
The group aims for having fun.  “Perfection is not our goal,” said Springer.  “We have fun.  I look forward to Wednesdays.”

If you are interested in donating supplies or becoming a member of the group, call (253) 537-8910.

Pat Ditter uses a break from caregiving to work on her quilts. Photo by Bob Riler.


Bob Riler
For Pierce County ADRC

Ditter is not alone.  According to the National Family Caregivers Association, more than 29 percent of the U.S. population provides care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend.

Like most other caregivers, Ditter couldn’t do it alone.  “Caregiving can get pretty lonely,” she said.  She made a call to the Aging and Disability Resource Center (253-798-4600) and now gets regular help from the Family Caregiver Support Program, a service of Pierce County Community Connections.

Eight hours each week a caregiver from Lutheran Community Services gives her a break and takes the responsibility off her shoulders.   The Family Caregiver Support Program helps pay for that service allowing her to do things, like quilting.

Now, more families who are caring for a loved one will be able to receive a break like that thanks to an increase in funding provided to the Family Caregiver Support Program.  The program provides services that support and sustain the caregiver–spouse, relative or friend–who is caring for a disabled adult 18 years of age or older.

The Washington State Legislature has allocated a 30 percent increase in funding for the program in Pierce County.  The program helps unpaid care providers cope with the stresses and demands of giving care and helps care recipients remain in their own homes rather than have to move into more expensive formal caregiving settings.

“There’s tremendous logic to this increase in funding,” said Connie Kline, Social Services Supervisor with Pierce County.  “A little bit of support provided to a family can prevent or delay people needing much more expensive support.  The Family Caregiver Support Program is a wise investment and a special help to families working to keep their loved ones at home.”

Currently, the program supports 372 Pierce County families.  The enhanced funding will allow an additional 167 families to receive help.

“Eight hours doesn’t seem like a lot but it does wonders for my spirit,” said Ditter.  She had to learn how to accept that help.  “The first few times Joe came and I said to myself, ‘Now what do I do?’  Eventually I learned just how much there is to do.”

The Family Caregiver Support Program provides a number of important services designed to help the caregiver: information about and connection to needed resources and services; education to caregivers on diseases and planning; minor adaptive equipment; help with problem solving and coping skills; therapies to relieve stress and support health; and respite, the kind of help that keeps Ditter going.

Caregivers who receive help from the Family Caregiver Support Program cannot be receiving Medicaid services.  Some services are available on a sliding fee scale while others are available free of charge with a limited maximum allowance per caregiver.

For a few hours each week, Ditter can focus on quilting, a hobby she picked up after retirement.  “John is very proud of what I have produced,” she said.  “Whenever people come over, John points to my quilts and says, ‘Pat did that!’”  And that praise does wonders for her spirit.

More information is available by calling the Pierce County Aging and Disability Resource Center at (253) 798-4600 or (800) 562-0332 or by visiting

First ever Pierce County event recognizes “Angels on earth”

Karen Lueshen
Karen Lueshen examines the award she received in recognition of her caregiving at a HCPC event in May.

On May 23, Healthcare Providers Council of Pierce County (HCPC) honored 35 Pierce County caregivers at an award ceremony at The Weatherly Inn in Tacoma.  Lynessa Tinglum, a community outreach coordinator with Advanced Health Care and Kelly Smith Chambers, owner of Visiting Angels in Tacoma both belong to organizations in Thurston County that recognize the contributions of caregivers in the community.  They also belong to HCPC, a non-profit organization made up of individuals working in organizations that provide services to seniors in Pierce County.  They pushed for the first ever recognition event in Pierce County and began taking applications two months ago.  They received 55 nominations with one nominee, Jennette Moore, receiving 13 nominations.  Thirty-five caregivers were chosen for recognition and six were chosen as special honorees.  They were Hipolito Ciriaco, Lolita Howard-Canty, Karen Lueshen, Jennette Moore, Denise Ramsey, and Jay Webb

It takes a special sort of person to be a caregiver.  In the nomination letters, clients’ families regularly used the word blessing to refer to the care given a loved one and caregivers spoke frequently of the gratitude they feel towards the people they care for.

Smith Chambers read a list of skills and practices she said were the theme of the nomination letters HCPC received.  Things like smiles, sees something and gets it done, and punctual were interspersed with personal touches like cooks from scratch and brings fresh flowers.  “If you need a copy for some training materials,” Smith Chambers offered the businesses that attended, “I can send it to you.”

Every nominee received an award and a copy of the nomination letter.  Cobb was touched by her nomination letter as was Lueshen who seemed overwhelmed and was still teary eyed an hour after receiving her award.  While most of the individuals nominated worked in the senior care industry, Lueshen was nominated by the Bonney Lake Senior Center for her work with seniors especially her neighbor, Florence.  Towards the end of Florence’s life, Lueshen took her to a Jazz festival so that she could be around the “music that she loved one last time.”  Lueshen said she’d completely forgotten the trip but Florence had been so excited she had bought three new outfits, one for each day of the festival, and she’d insisted on wearing strand after strand of beads each day of the festival.

Lolita Howard-Canty receives a caregiver recognition award from Darol Tuttle and Kelly Smith Chambers.

Bathing is a big deal for many clients as many caregivers know so it wasn’t surprising that Jennette Moore from Charlton Place in Tacoma won praises for the “best shower I’ve ever had.”  Hipolito Ciriaco, the owner of Grace Joy Adult Family Home in University Place was nominated by a family that was having trouble with an elderly father that refused to bathe and was angry about being moved.  Ciriaco showed up wearing scrubs and convinced the man to come with him, eventually the man became comfortable enough to bathe for the first time in six weeks.

Lolita Howard-Canty and Denise Ramsey’s clothes hide wings.  Ramsey’s nomination letter said, “God sent us an angel.”  Jesus speaks of abundance the letter went on to say and “Denise put that abundance into our lives.”  Howard-Canty’s nomination letter called her “our angel on earth.”

These students keep coming back for more

There’s a white board and teacher, students and a computer.  There are cookies and coffee and homemade chocolate candy.  What differentiates this classroom from most other college classes is that the candy sparked a conversation about coconut oil and Alzheimer’s disease.  Welcome to the 50+ classes at Clover Park Technical College.  The course listings mostly involve art classes but Stephen Rousseau, with the school’s Continuing Education program, said that the intention is to increase the number of personal enrichment classes offered to complement current “basic path leads to success classes.” Gretchen Alden’s oil painting class gets together every Monday for three hours of “therapy” as long-time student, Joyce Eyres sees it.  That therapy sometimes sounds like the conversation around the dinner table as students chide each other, interrupt conversations, offer encouragement and worry about missing classmates.
Personal enrichment classes differ from other college classes in that students often repeat classes for the fun of it.  Many of the students in Alden’s class have been showing up long enough to have lifetime memberships.  Harriet Stockridge laughed when she tried to recall how long she’s been showing up to apply paint to canvas.  “A long time,” she admits.  “I think about 15 years.  I was with Penny (when the courses were taught at the old Lakewood Senior Center).  I just started going,” she stopped then added, “I just do it because I like to get out of the house.  I feel productive.  Everybody’s so nice.  Fortunately my kids sort of like them (her paintings).  I just finished a farm scene for my granddaughter.  I’m not an artist.”  A statement which brings a quick disagreement from Emiko Hammand at the other end of the table.  “Don’t quote me,” she protested.  “I’m the worst one in the class.  They’re patient with me and help me.”
Hammond, who has been attending classes “a long, long time…maybe 20 years,” said she “was kind of a home body.  I had to come out.  I think everybody should come out of the house and do something.  Ahh,” she quietly said in frustration.  The class was working on a still life and Hammond was becoming frustrated trying to paint a green opaque vase.
Lyla Adey said she started taking classes after she’d “gotten a Bob Ross starter kit.”  She likes doing the different projects with people her own age and learning new things.  The added benefit is that the output from the classes means “you can change your walls out” although she claimed it was Eyers that owns a gallery in her home from the number of pictures on her wall.  “I paint for my own enjoyment.  I used to sit for hours painting at home.  I took a class from Jerry Yarnell and he was saying how many thoughts are required to paint.  You can exercise your brain (by painting).”
Eyers claimed she was going to be a stay at home mom so she took classes over the year but “didn’t get involved like I have here.”
One of the newbies, Carrie Dira has only been coming for the past two years.  “I spent 37 years on the east coast and while I was there I took classes at Michaels (Arts and Crafts store) and Michaels quit giving classes.  “This is fun.  It’s social too.  I prefer a smaller group.  If you want attention you ask for it and you get it.  If you don’t, they leave you alone.”
At a recent 50+ fair, the class showed their work.  An opportunity Dira said was fun as it moved them into the arena of “artistes” she said with a smile.
The only male member of the class is Robert Daniel.  He went to the 50+ fair and met Gretchen Alden who was answering questions about the class and talking to people about the art exhibit.  Daniels attended the event because he had just been laid off and the event included a job fair and seminars on finding work for individuals over 50.  “My major job now is looking for a job.”  He’d painted as a teenager.  “I used to go to the Boys Club and I just put it aside and always wondered about doing it again.”  While attending the fair, Daniel’s won a drawing for a free class.  He said he went right back to Alden and waved his prize at her and said he was taking her class.