They trained to do crafts. Their group became close-knit friends who helped the community.

KENT — They came for the coffee, the camaraderie and a creative outlet. What they gave back went to help the children.

The group – called Saint Kateri’s Women’s Craft Group – has been meeting every Wednesday after Mass in a ground floor room at Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish for around 20 years.

Items they have made over the years include aprons, jewelry, holiday ornaments, doll clothes, hats, shoes and handbags, wall hangings, and flower and sleigh baskets .

Originally the group made items for themselves, but in 2007 they started donating everything to children’s charities.

Charities include Shriners Hospitals for Children, which helps with orthopedic conditions; Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which helps fight cancer and other life-threatening illnesses; and to a priest living in the Appalachian region.

“We are sending him money so he can buy shoes, hats and gloves for the kids because he said they come to school in the middle of winter with flip flops,” said Jacque Petersen, a resident of Kent, who joined the group 15 years ago.

In addition to donating crafts, the group, which had no membership fees, donates approximately $1,500 a year to charities.

At its peak, there were about 20 members.

Over the years the group has lost many of them – some have moved away to be closer to their children while others have died. Over the past 18 months, the group has lost six members.

Now there are three women left – Cyndy Gustafson, resident of Petersen, Kent, and Sue Lorpardo, resident of Amenia, NY – and they decided about a month ago to end the group .

“Driving is part of it and some of us have trouble getting around,” said Petersen, who is 82.

They will be donating their leftover crafts and craft supplies from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on November 27 and 28 at the church, 17 Bridge Street.

From bead boxes for jewelry making to a variety of ornaments, “we have just about everything you need to make a craft,” Petersen said.

In return, they ask for donations. Once the items are sold, all proceeds – along with any remaining funds in their account – will be donated to the Kent Fire Department and the Kent Food Pantry.

The bonds of friendship

Petersen, originally from Nevada, said when her husband died she moved to Kent to be closer to her sons. “I didn’t know anyone,” she said.

Through the craft, she bonded with the other women and developed strong friendships.

“I just had fun. I have the best memories of this group. We have coffee and chat,” said Petersen, who is a grandmother of three and a great-grandmother of one.

The members of the group, all retired, now meet regularly on other days of the week, including for lunch on Fridays.

They have two big craft sales a year – one in the spring and one at Christmas.

“Every penny of what we earn goes to children’s charities,” Petersen said. “Saint Jude always sent us a beautiful thank you note.”

Plus, she said the Appalachian Priest was “thrilled” with the craftsmanship.

Some supplies were donated by parishioners. Most, however, were purchased by women at garage sales and thrift stores.

Of all the items they have made, by far the best seller has been aprons.

“Sometimes we made about 40 to 50 a year and sold each one,” Petersen said, adding that it took one to two hours to make each apron. They made aprons for adults and reversible aprons for children. “The work is so good. We just don’t skim those.

Petersen said she was crafty from a young age.

“My mother taught me to sew and do crafts, along with my sister,” she said, adding that she had owned a fabric store for 18 years.

Lorpardo, who is 72 and the “baby of the group”, has been a member for 10 years. She made jewelry, doll clothes, candles, aprons, welcome signs and bird feeders with the group.

She said a member named Dale, who died two years ago, was the band’s “main idea woman”.

“She was an art teacher and very creative,” said Lorpardo, a grandmother of three. “She thought of all the ideas for crafts.”

The group tried to find other people to take over the reins, to no avail.

“We put advertisements in our weekly newsletter at church and we got the word out all over town and a lot of people are young and just don’t have the time. They work full time,” Petersen said.

Although the group no longer meets, any hours spent in that downstairs room will stay with them, Lorpardo said.

“I’m going to miss it,” Lorpardo said. “It was definitely about friendship more than anything else.”

[email protected] 203-948-9802

About Tracy G. Larimore

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