Thanks to two local women, 206 local residents in need will have a warm, handmade scarf to wrap themselves up in this Christmas.
Eleanor George teamed up with Arlene Kennedy to knit and crochet the winter gear, donating all 206 scarves to a campaign led by Ward 1 Coun. Charlene Miller and supported by the rest of her council colleagues to create gift bags for the city’s needy.
This year’s project is the latest iteration of a donation drive Miller started four years ago.
During last year’s project, a local senior, Eleanor George, promised to make 175 scarves for the 2020 Christmas bag giveaway.
“When Eleanor got a hold of me last year to say she was going to do 175 scarves for me, I was overwhelmed,” Miller said as she accepted the donation Saturday.
“I didn’t know if somebody could do 175 scarves in a year but she did, and it’s a wonderful job.”
George said it takes her about five hours to make one scarf. Some are knitted and some are crocheted, and each one has also been washed, dried, conditioned and packed into a bag.
With 177 scarves completed since last year — 175 for the donation and one each for Miller and for Mayor Greg Dionne — George put in at least 885 hours on the project or nearly 37 days.
“It takes five hours per scarf if you really crash,” George said.
“Somedays I would get slow. I finished last night at 8 p.m.”
George says she has been knitting and crocheting all her life, and that she’s self-taught. While she’s pleased she and Kennedy were able to knit and crochet over 200 scarves, she’s hoping more in Prince Albert step up.
“I would really like to get some help from the people of this town,” she said.
“You can phone me during the year — it would be a big godsend to get some help.”
While the 175-scarf commitment was made well before COVID-19 became a Saskatchewan concern, George said the project did give her something to do. Usually, she keeps busy with other activities, but many have been cancelled due to the pandemic.
“I don’t drive anymore, so I can’t go out,” said George, who has also been a passionate advocate for the Two Miles for Mary Seniors’ Transportation Program.
“This kept me sane. I have no worries — I’m too busy with all of these projects. I belong to the Mont St. Joseph Home Auxiliary and work in the canteen and teach art class there. I can’t go there anymore. I belong to seniors’ advocacy — I can’t go there anymore. I can’t go to exercise class. I have to do something.”
While in previous years the scarves have been part of gift bags given out at a Christmas Eve gathering, this year’s distribution will be different. The bags will be distributed through shelters, detox centres and other service providers for the city’s most vulnerable.
In 2016, Miller started collecting donations for women, until a member of the public raised concerns about the need for donations for men as well. That’s when former councillor Evert Botha got involved to help.
This year, all of council, including Mayor Dionne, who joked Saturday that he was just there to be the muscle, is contributing.
“It’s something great to do for the community and give people a hand up,” Miller said.
That hand up will include something very special — a scarf carefully made just for them.
“Not everyone gets something homemade,” George said. “I think they’ll appreciate them.”