This was an article in today’s newspaper The Intelligencer in Doylestown, PA. It was written about Alfreda Czarny who makes crocheted afghans for me to take to nursing homes. Alfreda is 87-years-old and still volunteering to brighten the lives of other residents in senior living communities.
Alfreda Czarny fingers are not what they once were. Racked by arthritis, they’re bent and twisted into gnarly shapes more commonly found on high tree branches.
“Look at them,” Czarny directed, extending them as if showing off a fresh manicure. “Just look at them.”
And then, this 87-year-old marvel of a woman, who has beaten breast cancer into remission for seven years now, reaches to the floor with those twisted fingers, grabs a crochet hook and partially completed blanket and resumes her love affair.
Hardly a sound can be heard in her meticulously decorated, seventh-floor apartment at the Wesley Enhanced Living senior community in Doylestown Township. Shafts of early afternoon sunlight peek through the slats of the window blinds. A small flat-panel TV, one its owner admits she has little use for, rests quietly on a stand. Only the faint sound of her wooden rocking chair pierces the silence as her twisted hands become young again.
“This is what I love to do, ever since my mother taught me as a teenager,” Czarney said. “I crochet and knit blankets, lap robes, and hats and sweaters for kids. It keeps me busy. I can’t sit here and watch TV all day; that’s a waste of time that doesn’t help anyone. I have better things to do with my life.”
Earlier this year, Czarney’s wonderful creations began to mount in the apartment. Blankets here, lap robes there, perhaps 40 in all. Realizing she needed to do something with them, she read a column I’d written late last year about Patricia Gallagher of Chalfont, whose Stories for Seniors organization, in addition to reading stories to seniors, donates gently used stuffed animals and lap blankets to people in area nursing homes, AIDS hospices, retirement communities, veterans hospitals, shelters and other places where folks may be in need of a ray of sunshine peeking into their lives.
“Alfreda said she saw your column and immediately knew what she could do with her blankets,” Gallagher said. “She emailed me earlier this year and said she had 32 blankets and lap robes for my organization. They were colorful and soft and with the most amazing patterns.
“She also said she was inspired to donate them because she had been in Doylestown Hospital for a blood test and saw a man sitting in a wheelchair with only a sheet over his legs. She regretted she didn’t have a blanket in her car to give him, just so he could stay warm. She knew there had to be many more like him who would enjoy her blankets.”
Czarney’s first eight blankets were distributed to a group of county women recovering from hard times related to drug and alcohol issues. Others were given to seniors at a nursing home in Bucks County.
“If the blankets and lap robes make someone’s day a little brighter, that makes me very happy,” Czarny said. “Who wouldn’t want to do something to make someone else happy? We’re all in this thing together, aren’t we?”
Earlier this month, Gallagher was asked by Cass Forkin of Twilight Wish, an organization that grants wishes for low-income seniors, if Varney had a patriotic blanket she could donate. Forkin’s group was giving an ailing New Jersey veteran and former World War II POW a new flagpole to replace one damaged during superstorm Sandy. The money for the flagpole, which was presented to the veteran on Saturday, was raised by the Doylestown chapter of Twilight Wish.
“Cass thought it’d be great if we could present him with a patriotic blanket too,” Gallagher said.
Czarney checked her overflowing closet, and there it was: a red, white and blue blanket she’d crocheted a while back.
“Can you think of anything that makes you feel any better than doing something for someone who served our country?” Czarny said.
Czarny reached down and began crocheting another blanket. It is one of several Gallagher will pick up next week to distribute to those who need them most.
“I’ll do this until my fingers won’t let me do it any longer,” Czarney said.
And they are marvelous fingers.
Look at them. Just look at them.