Featured Mother Bears: The Villages
It takes a village to raise a child—but when the child needs a teddy bear to cuddle, that’s when women of The Villages step up.
A group of knitters from The Villages, a retirement community outside Orlando, Fla., has been making bears for Mother Bear Project for six years. The group was started by sisters Mary Alice Schueler and Judy Little, who decided to recruit people to make bears together. For example, member Bonnie learned about MBP from a knit-in with the local Knitting Guild, where Mary Alice was an instructor.
While Judy no longer lives in The Villages, Mary Alice currently oversees the MBP group, which runs from as few as two members in the summer to as many as 20 during the winter when the snowbirds are in town. The women meet on the second and fourth Thursday of each month.
While the number of members may vary, their bear output is huge. The group has made hundreds of bears since it first started.
For these bear makers, Mother Bear Project aligns well with their interests.
“When I was in 3rd grade our teacher gave us the option of going outside for recess in the winter in Michigan or learning how to knit inside,” says member Judy. “For me [that] was a no-brainer. Choosing MBP was also a no-brainer.”
Cathy agrees. “I have been collecting bears for years, and this fits into everything I like.”
The members all have different bear goals—and different knitting speeds. Lorraine has made 525 bears—and her goal (for now) is 1,000. Says another member, Gwen, “It takes three evenings of TV to make a bear.”
At the other end of the spectrum is Debbie, saying, “I used to knit Barbie clothes for my kids. I know I can finish a bear in my lifetime,” to the smiles of her comrades in knitting needles.
Because the main goal for these women, of course, is to join friends in making bears for the kids who need them. Peggy says her incentive for being part of the group is both the camaraderie as well as the idea that she’s doing something that brings comfort to kids. “We have made so many good friends here,” she says. “It’s so exciting to see my bears in pictures.”
Says Judy, “I don’t know if Amy knows that this project provides comfort for the knitters as well.” (Says Amy, “I know!”)
Perhaps Brenda sums it up best: “It gives me a purpose in life. You look at the pictures and you want to give [the kids] a hug, and you can’t hug but you can send them a bear.”