Pat Campbell’s family’s closets were overflowing with her home-made Afghans.
“My family is just stuffed with the stuff I made,” said Campbell, 82, from Redondo Beach.
However, she didn’t want to stop crocheting just because her family had enough of her hobby. So, instead of giving them to her family as gifts for yet another year, she decided to give them to people whose closets were empty and whose couches lacked her colorful wool creations. “It’s nice that somebody wants what you make,”Campbell said.
In 1981, a group of women from the South Bay Auxiliary began a group called Comfort and Aid to Patients, CAPS, as a way of reaching out to others in need. The group began knitting layettes for babies in the nursery and blankets for the patients of what was the South Bay Hospital. After the hospital closed, the group still came together and continued to share their knitting skills with families in need in the South Bay.
“Once you start looking, there’s a lot of this kind of stuff going on behind the scenes,” said Campbell. “There’s just a need for comfort. There’s so much bad going on in the world. Eight people got shot going to the beauty parlor for heaven sake — there’s just a need for this kind of thing, period.”
The group meets at “The Gathering Place,” a bereavement program of Providence TrinityCare Hospice located in the basement of the Beach Cities Health District every third Wednesday of the month. They come together to have a quiet lunch, trade knitting secrets and pick up new colors for their next blankets. Many of the women are long-time knitters, while others are just learning.
“It’s not something you can say ‘hey, I want to do it’ and tomorrow you’re a star,” said Campbell. “Everything takes practice.”
Most of the women heard about the program through the Beach City Health District, while others heard about it from friends who where already knitting in the group.
“You have to be patient,” said member Andrea Hughes. “I think I was waiting for that time in my life when I could volunteer. It’s nice not thinking about myself.”
The 14 women come from all different backgrounds and deliver about two-dozen blankets a month. They also knit other things such as scarves and hats. The women never get to meet the people their blankets serve, but they still continue to knit miles of blankets for the families in need.
“Just knowing that the stuff is going where it brings a lot of comfort to people is why I keep going,” said member Chick Routh.
Some of the women are retired, while others still maintain jobs while knitting on the side.
“I hadn’t knit in years and thought it might be a good thing to get into, said Hughes. “I got laid off from my job, so I had time.”
The women coo over each other’s designs and plan their next round of blankets while sitting around a table of cold cut sandwiches and veggies with dip. The time is not reserved for knitting, rather for conversation and ideas. They work on their projects at home and bring them for the meetings.
“I’ve never been able to do bows,” said Melba Tovar. One of her friends gives her a pat on the back. Both of their families are overflowing with blankets as well.
“By doing this, we get a chance to show off what we knit and get ideas for the future. I think people thrive in this sort of atmosphere,” said Campbell. “Somebody wants what we do!”
After the hospital closed, the group was without a place to donate their blankets. TheGathering Placestepped in and offered them the opportunity to donate their blankets to their hospice.
“The blankets go to our patients,” said Caitlin Cutt, 26, from Providence TrinityCare foundation. “When you are going through something like these people are, the thought that there are people who want to reach out and provide comfort is a powerful thing. The hospice is a scary notion, people get scared. These blankets let them know that they aren’t alone in their struggle or loss.”
At the end of the meeting, the colorful blankets and scarves get piled into boxes and wheeled away down the hallway.
“We don’t see where they go,” said Campbell. “We just have to believe.”