For ten years the AOA club members have been giving of their time and their talents for members of the local community.
AOA stands for Active Older Adults, and that is certainly an understatement, in reference to this group. These active older adults which are comprised of women ranging in age from their late 50s to nearly 85 years old, get together once a week, on Friday mornings, for a knitting club. The members said that they do spend a good deal of time knitting during club meetings, but that is not all that they do. They also attend functions; hold community gatherings, fund raise, support local organizations, volunteer and get together simply for socialization.
Since the club was started, ten years ago, the women members have visited Quidnesett Elementary School to teach the students there how to knit, brought 75 handmade afghans to the McBurney YMCA in New York after 9-11 to help fire fighters handling the tragedy replenish their supplies, they also made over 100 teddy bears to give to the National Guard, which were in turn given to children whose parents were serving, and donated hand-made scarves made in the school colors after the disaster at Virginia Tech University and made nearly 3,000 afghans which they have donated to various charities and organizations across the state including Project Linus, House of Hope, Rhode Island Family Shelters, Amos House, Mother of Life Center, Center for Individualized Training and Education, Kent Hospital, the Elizabeth Buffum Chace House, Children’s Friend and Services, Nickerson House, McAuley House, Blessed Sacrament Church and to the Kent County YMCA’s Owl program.
The Kent County YMCA supports the club, as that is where the club was actually started ten years ago. Today, however, membership in the organization has grown to such a number, 32 to be exact, that the Kent County YMCA had to transfer the membership meetings off site because the Y did not have the space to accommodate the members. The members now hold their weekly club meetings at Atria Harborhill, in East Greenwich. That facility has a type of partnership with the YMCA so they provide the space to the club.
The founding member of the club, Georgia McDermott, said that many of the women in the club have been a part of the group since the beginning, but that others have come along more recently. She said that each month it seems like word spreads and more women want to join up, which she said, the club supports tremendously.
“It seems like there are fewer and fewer people who are knitting, but we have so many people that know how, they help those that are newer to it so everyone really enjoys coming,” she said. “Plus we are older and many of us are widowed so it’s a nice outlet for us to get together and socialize while having a really nice cause to support.”
This year members of club will be donating 232 large afghans, 101 small afghans, 323 pairs of mittens, 248 hats, 70 scarves, 40 baby sets, 12 knitted toys and 12 baskets of toiletries.
McDermott said that all of the items were handmade by women in the club throughout this past year. She said that although the women work on their projects during Friday morning’s knitting club, many of the members spend a good portion of their own time, in addition to that, getting their work done.
The club is, McDermott said, much more than just a knitting club.
“It’s a wonderful group of women and although we do get together for a knitting club, we are really doing more socializing on Friday mornings than when we are at home alone knitting, but that is fine because the group is meant for all of that,” McDermott said. “Most of us have been coming for such a long time we have all become really good friends. We usually all go out to lunch together after the club meets on Fridays and do things together outside of the club and I think that is why our members really enjoy coming and why our club has lasted for as long as it has.
“I think there is a part of each of us that feels like we need the club because we fulfill each other and the club keeps us going,” she said.
Irma Carolan, who is 83 years old and was one of the founding members of the club, said that “being a part of the club is so rewarding.”
“It’s nice to know that we are doing something for people instead of just sitting at home,” she said. “And it’s a great group of women and Georgia keeps us all motivated.”
The group meets year round, although they take the month of December off. As soon as January rolls around, however, they are back to work gearing up for next year’s donations.
This year, the group will be shipping off their competed items on Friday, December 3rd. The group recognizes the day as their annual Christmas Giveaway and they invite representatives from each of the various receiving charities and organizations to come to Atria Harbor Hill to meet the women who make the items and then take them back to their respective organizations for distribution into the community.