The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Contributed by Jan Sommerfeld, RSVP Program Assistant
The weeks following the holidays are busy for stores, as shoppers return or exchange unwanted merchandise. But what if we could give the perfect gift – the one that keeps on giving?

hooks n needlesVolunteers in our community are doing just that.

Take the members of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, folks 55 and older who serve throughout our community. From tutoring students, to responding to emergencies, to building homes and providing transportation to the elderly and people with disabilities, they give gifts of their time and talents to a variety of nonprofit agencies that serve people in Outagamie, Winnebago and Calumet counties.

And one group makes a difference without even leaving their homes.

The Hooks ‘n Needles knitting group creates handmade gifts of love that are donated to local nonprofit agencies. Most of their work is done at home, although between two and three dozen knitters gather once a week or monthly for “show and tell,” where they socialize, exchange ideas and display their colorful creations. Their handmade knits are donated to the Volunteer Center, which distributes them to local agencies.

Among the agencies that recently received handmade hats, slippers, socks and sweaters was the Center for Grieving Children, a program of the Boys & Girls Club of the Fox Valley. The Center provides support to grieving children, teens and families through peer support groups, education and outreach.

A thank-you letter sent by Loris Damerow, the agency’s director, included the stories of some of the children who received the gifts at the agency’s December Family Night for grieving families:

  • Opal, 5 and her sister, Hannah, 7, came with their mother to remember their father who died by suicide 8 months ago.
  • Grandpa Bob came with Jim, 7 and Zane, 11, after the boys’ mother died six months ago from an overdose. The boys now are living with their grandparents.
  • Aubrey, a teenager, came alone. Her dad died a year ago in an accident.
  • Andy, 11, came to grieve his best friend who collapsed on the school grounds and died of an enlarged heart.

The knit items made the Hooks ‘n Needles were gift-wrapped and given to the grieving children that night, so they could open their presents on Christmas. While the handiwork couldn’t bring their loved ones back, it provided support to them in knowing that they are not alone – our community cares about them.

For more information on Hook ‘n Needles – or other volunteer opportunities – stop by the Volunteer Center, 2616 S. Oneida St., Appleton; call 920-832-9630 or visit