Knitters at Longwood at Oakmont make sweaters for needy

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A dozen women who live at Longwood at Oakmont retirement community in Verona are knitting a rainbow of sweaters to send to impoverished children overseas.

Since 2007, the women have knitted more than 500 sweaters for World Vision's Knit for Kids program, which distributes the sweaters to children in countries including Armenia, Swaziland, Tanzania and Nicaragua.

Some of the sweaters also will be distributed to victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Lynda Simboli, who assists members of the group with knitting problems, said the volunteers include women from their late 70s to age 94.

They get together in the craft room at Longwood every Wednesday morning, using yarn from a well-stocked supply of many colors. The knitters choose the color, but they all use a standard pattern. The garments are knit from washable acrylic yarn.

This year, the group knitted and donated 100 sweaters for the program.

"By participating in the Knit for Kids program, our residents have found it rewarding in various aspects: one, helping others in need, and two, helping them connect with other residents who share a love of knitting," Michael Haye, executive director of Longwood said.

Mrs. Simboli learned to knit as a Girl Scout and did a service project in the 1940s with her Scout troop.

"We were knitting squares to make afghans for soldiers [in World War II]," she recalled.

Later, she graduated from Margaret Morrison Carnegie College at Carnegie Mellon University and became a home economics teacher in the Pittsburgh schools.

She has been part of the Knit for Kids group at Longwood for more than two years.

The women in the group laugh together and enjoy each other's company while knowing that they are contributing to a beneficial project, she said.

One woman uses mostly pastel yarns for the sweaters. Mrs. Simboli uses mostly browns, tans and greens that are less likely to show dirt.

"I think of little boys playing in the mud," she explained.

Resident Carol Swift started the knitting group at Longwood in 2007 after reading about the Knit for Kids program in Creative Knitting magazine.

According to a World Vision spokeswoman, the Knit for Kids program was started in 1996 by Guideposts magazine.


Anne Cloonan, freelance writer: First Published December 20, 2012 10:00 AM


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