By DEVIN WEEKS
About 60 bags were arranged in Lake City Center on Wednesday afternoon, each brimming with hand-knitted items that would go out to the community.
A few of those responsible for the knitting helped haul the bags to vehicles that would send the cozy goods to 14 different Kootenai County nonprofits.
This is the 26th year for such a distribution, thanks to the fastidious and tireless work of the cleverly named local knitting group, the Knit Wits.
"It’s my favorite meeting of the whole year," said Knit Wits communications director Linda Jo Park.
Hats, scarves, slippers, baby blankets, stuffed animals and other knitted treasures filled those bags, which were given to organizations such as the Post Falls Food Bank, Life Care Center and Lakeland Head Start.
“Our families really appreciate it,” said Melanie Krier, an administrative assistant with ICARE, a child abuse prevention program of St. Vincent de Paul.
"They do a lot of infant sweaters and hats and gloves and sweaters, and those are so appreciated, especially for the little guys, because we serve underprivileged people," Krier said. "And then of course the homeless, my goodness. They really appreciate it. They take a few of each."
Charlotte Hooper, director of the ABC Food Bank in Athol, wore a big smile as she and Knit Wits members squished several bags into her car. As a knitter and crocheter herself, she knows how much time and work goes into each piece. And as a food bank director, she knows how needed these items are.
"Some of these children probably would never get something hand-knitted like that. They might be estranged from family, or there’s all kinds of different scenarios,” Hooper said. "For a new mama to have a blanket with a sweater and little booties and a hat for their new baby, is wonderful. It’s just wonderful."
This year, the Knit Wits' 30 members created about 2,000 different pieces starting in January. That's close to 70 items per member.
"Those women who crochet, they produce prodigious amounts of stuff,” said knitter Peggy Appleman, of Coeur d’Alene, who has been a Knit Wits member for about eight years. "It’s mind-boggling."
Appleman said she submitted at least 20 items this year.
“I keep expecting to see something I’ve made walking down the street, but I haven’t yet," Appleman said.
“Never watch TV without something in your hands,” Knit Wits group leader, Jan D'Arc, said with a grin.
D'Arc has been with the group for 19 years. She stores completed items in her home until distribution day, which usually takes place near the holidays when warm clothing is most needed.
She said giving to the community is the whole reason the group began.
"It was started by a lady named Joan Blatchley,” D'Arc said. "She got together a group of ladies who had run out of relatives and friends to knit and crochet for, so she went around the community and found places that would like stuff and started with eight ladies — and now we have about 30 active."
D'Arc, who knits up to 30 hours a week, has been knitting and crocheting for 30 years. She and the ladies, who meet once a month, are glad their work is going to those who need it.
“It’s very nice to know that we haven’t wasted our time watching TV," she said. "We’ve been productive, and somebody’s going to enjoy it."
Although Knit Wits members do not teach classes, new members are always welcome to join the cause. Donations of yarn are always accepted at Lake City Center, located at 1916 Lakewood Drive in Coeur d'Alene.
For information, call D'Arc at 208-772-4470 or Park at 208-660-3421.