Kennedy Seniors Centre knitters help new Delta families in need

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Healthiest Babies Possible program manager Jen Mantyka (far left) and program assistant Jackie King (far right) receive donated hand-made layettes from Kennedy Seniors Recreation Centre knitters (left to right) Lil Jones

Eleven new and vulnerable families in Delta, Surrey and White Rock will be receiving hand-knitted layettes (sets of clothing, toilet articles and bedclothes for newborn children) thanks to knitters from the Kennedy Seniors Recreation Centre.

Lil Jones, Colleen Hopkins and Mary Hillen started knitting baby sweaters and blankets last Christmas after learning about the need for donated newborn clothing in the Lower Mainland.

The idea came indirectly from the group’s work on another charitable project: knitting purple baby hats to raise awareness of newborns’ “purple crying period” and to support shaken baby syndrome prevention.

Kennedy Seniors Centre member Lil Jones puts together out one of the layettes she and other Kennedy knitters made for local mothers in need.

Kennedy Seniors Centre member Lil Jones puts together out one of the layettes she and other Kennedy knitters made for local mothers in need. Image credit: Kathryn Wu

“This all started when the ladies from [BC] Children’s Hospital came to pick up a batch of hats,” Jones said. “One of the nurses said that when she gave a little purple hat to a new mom, the mom said that was the only thing that she had for the baby.”

Each layette comes with a baby sleeper, a blanket, a sweater set and accessories such as hats and bibs. Money for materials like yarn and buttons came entirely from donations collected by Jones.

The layettes will be distributed to vulnerable families through Healthiest Babies Possible, a pregnancy outreach program provided by Options Community Services. Jen Mantyka, program manager for Healthiest Babies Possible, said the program has 300 participants in Delta, Surrey and White Rock.

“There’s several of the families we support who don’t have any other family, any friends,” said Mantyka. “They’re not getting any gifts to help them out and they’re struggling just to make ends meet. And just being able to have a small gift or a warm blanket for the baby is amazing.”

Kennedy Seniors Centre knitter Mary Hillen shows one of the baby sweaters she made for local mothers in need.Kennedy Seniors Centre knitter Mary Hillen shows one of the baby sweaters she made for local mothers in need. Image credit: Kathryn Wu

Healthiest Babies Possible provides health education and support – including home visits and weekly groups – for new and expecting families. The program also aims to connect participants to other social services, such as B.C. Housing.

“I think with the layettes, for people, they know that someone has put their time into it. It’s something special to put on their brand new baby,” said Mantyka. “That’s something they’re going to keep forever. As a mom, those are the things that I keep from when my boys were babies.”

Hillen, a volunteer knitter and project coordinator, said the timeline for a completed sweater varies, depending on her arthritis.

“It used to be a week, but now it’s about two weeks.” said Hillen.

“Most people don’t get homemade stuff anymore,” she added. “Homemade lasts forever.”

Kennedy Seniors Centre knitter Colleen Hopkins knits one of the purple baby hats that helped inspire the layettes project.Kennedy Seniors Centre knitter Colleen Hopkins knits one of the purple baby hats that helped inspire the layettes project. Image credit: Kathryn Wu

Hopkins, another volunteer knitter, explained that this knitting initiative is not the first for the Kennedy Seniors Recreation Centre.

“We do the purple hat campaign, we do the layettes, there’s also the group that does the scarves and hats and lap rugs for Deltassist. We collect Campbell’s Soup labels for schools and pop tabs for the cancer society,” said Hopkins.

“We’re just glad that we can do something to help someone else – pay it forward, as they say,” added Jones.