A Stitch in Time for the Holidays: La Jolla knitting group offers warmth to those who need it most

Louarn Sorkin has busy fingers. She loves to crochet hats, scarves and baby items. Back in 2007, she decided to turn her crafty creativity into something much more than a hobby. Sorkin and her girlfriend, Donna Papera, started the Creative Yarn and Girlfriend Therapy Group. Today the group boasts 36 members and continues to grow.

"After crocheting hats and scarves since 2004 for The Salvation Army and Just in Time (a nonprofit that helps foster youth transition out of the system), I saw a need for a greater number of hats and scarves to keep more people warm," Sorkin explained. "So Donna and I enlisted the help of friends who also wanted to give back to our community and have fun together at our monthly luncheons."

Some members crochet, some knit, and others use a loom to make their cozy creations. Most of the volunteers learned their craft from their mothers or grandmothers, and are happy to return to such a relaxing pastime while participating in community service.

They work during the year to amass more than 1,000 items to give away each holiday season. Since the group began, they've created and donated more than 9,000 hats, scarves and baby items.

La Jolla volunteer Ellen Gruer said she heard about the group through another volunteer, and was thrilled to combine her love of knitting with her commitment to serve. "Living in San Diego, how many sweaters do you need? But living in San Diego outside in the winter at night you sure could use a hat and scarf," she laughed.

Knitter Jeri Horton, also from La Jolla, joined the group five years ago. Her specialty is knitting baby blankets and hats for older kids.

"What really spoke to my heart," Horton explained, "was that the scarves and hats were going to so many worthy agencies that gave them to those in need — children undergoing chemo, foster children and teens, the homeless, senior citizens and pregnant wives of deployed servicemembers. I also found the ladies involved to be generous, kind and loving toward perfect strangers. Who could say no?"

Each club member purchases the yarn used as a donation to the cause. They also share yarn with each other. As word got out about the group, other knitting clubs and stores started donating large amounts of yarn.

Sorkin recalls one craft-shop owner who was closing his store and gave them 1,000 bolts of yarn. "That's bolts, not skeins. We stored it in my garage and it took us three years to go through it," she said.

The items are donated to The Salvation Army for programs that provide services to homeless people, seniors and children. They also give scarves to transitioning foster youth through the nonprofit, Just in Time. In addition, the group donates baby items to the Home Front program at Miramar Air Station. They put on a monthly shower for pregnant military moms with no local family around while their husbands are deployed. They further provide hats for an orphanage in Mexico.

Sorkin says her favorite charity is a heartwarming project called Happy Hats. "We make hats for the children going through chemotherapy at Rady Children's Hospital. They have a huge holiday party at the Ronald McDonald house, and every year we pass out delightful, colorful Happy Hats.

"The heartwarming part is when they ask if their siblings can have one, too. Since the siblings tend to get lost in the shuffle of doctors' appointments and cancer treatments, we voted to add 50 more hats to our original gift of 200 hats so we have extra hats for patients and siblings." Sorkin alone makes 80-100 Happy Hats throughout the year for this group of children. She admits they have a special place in her heart: "After going through chemotherapy myself this past year, I truly appreciate the importance of a snuggly hat to keep your head warm after losing all of your hair."

Sorkin serves on several charitable boards and has cofounded three large non-profit organizations. After all that service, she sees the Creative Yarn and Girlfriend Therapy Group as a more relaxing departure. "We come together as girlfriends without the worry of being asked to chair an event, serve on a committee or write a check. It's guilt-free!" she laughed.

 

WANT TO KNOW MORE? The Creative Yarn and Girlfriend Therapy Group meets once a month at members' homes where girlfriends bring dishes to share for lunch and "show and tell" about their monthly creations. If you're interested in joining, contact Louarn Sorkin at louarn.louarn@gmail.com

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