Feb 07, 2012 Neil Benjamin Jr. Uncategorized
Selflessness. It’s a word that can be associated with so much in this world.
But if you want to see one of the truest definitions, take a trip to the Marcellus Grange on a Thursday afternoon and just do some people watching.
What you’ll see is a group of between 15 and 20 women who donate their time and effort to help make the homeless and less fortunate feel loved. The group meets once a week to make various items for the homeless like sleeping bags, scarves, mittens and hats among other things.
The Grange formed in 1882 and has resided at 115 W. Main St. for 80 years. It’s a community organization focused on, well, community and volunteerism. The front page of grange.marcellusny.com says it’s made up of “families and individuals who share a common interest in community involvement, agriculture, and working together in a family environment.”
All of the women are retired and the consensus is the time they are donating is worth more to those who receive the items than to the women themselves.
“Doing this for others makes you feel good about what it is you’re doing,” said 78-year-old Joan Fischmann, a retired graphic artist. “Those who receive the gifts are very appreciative of what we do, and that’s what we get out of it. Plus, it’s a time for us all to get together and socialize a little.”
At around 2:15 p.m., the group takes a timeout to rev up their engines. Each week, a different woman brings in home-baked goods like cookies or muffins and pairs it with a cup of tea.
Mary Widger, 80, is referred to by many in the entourage as the “Fearless Leader,” but she doesn’t necessarily agree with the title. While she usually organizes everything, she says it’s a group effort to accomplish everything.
She explained the process of sewing and knitting their way to success. Each person has a specific job to do, whether it be in the beginning phases or at the end. When all is ready, the women will gather around a large table with the completed sleeping bag on top, complete with other miscellaneous items. Each woman puts her hand on the bag, and the following prayer is recited:
“Lord, take the work of our hands and bless it,
and in thy name,
let the person that receives this gift,
know that he/she is loved. Amen.”
Widger said everyone agreed that the items being sent out need a blessing in hopes of bringing some good fortune to those who need them.
The tools used to make the items, as well as the threads and other things necessary, are donated by various people and businesses. The group helps more than just the needy; the women of The Grange also stuff and sew little kid-sized dolls, which are then donated to local children’s hospitals. They’re used as comfort, and also as a tool for doctors to gently explain to the children what is happening.
Esther Marie Forester is an 85-year-old, Brooklyn-born Marcellus resident and mother to three daughters. She joined the group right around its inception 17 years ago.
“I knew our leader [Mary] before I joined,” Forester said. “I started coming here after my husband died. It’s for a good cause, and I just love the people I get to work with.”
Arlene Pollock will turn 90 in two months. The retired Onondaga Central third-grade teacher said she jumped on board because she had free time and wanted to put her sewing skills to good use.
Karin Whitmore, 69, is a retired secretary, originally born in Sweden. In 1977 she moved to Skaneateles because he husband accepted a job here. It was her first time working with the group and she says she will be coming back.
“It fills such an important need,” Whitmore said.
The mother and daughter duo of Eleanor, 88, and Susan Grinnell, 64, have been a part of the group for 16 years. Susan’s job was to stuff the dolls, while Susan used the needlepoint. They sat at separate tables, but were still able to have fun with each other.
“Oh, I just love spending all my time with her,” Eleanor deadpanned before shooting a smile over to her daughter.
That’s the kind of fun had at these weekly sewing sessions. Widger is vocal with the group, seeming to want to put a smile on each woman’s face with her warming charm. She showed where all the materials are stored and proudly spoke about her crew.
The women aren’t there to see others receive what they’ve made. When asked what she truly gets out of what she and the woman around her do, Widger spoke loudly and proudly.
“It’s just amazing what happens. It’s people helping other people, and that’s what it’s all about,” Widger concluded.
Neil Benjamin Jr. can be reached at email@example.com.