Inspiring People: Knitters bring comfort, companionship to senior population

Reporter: Lindsey Sablan Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

Our love language as a society has changed, now that touch is so rarely allowed. But Judy Zwicker and Priscilla Martin still know just how to send a message from the heart.

The two women are part of the Naples Senior Center Knitting Club, a 20-person group that churns out shawls, blankets, bags and hats. It is one of many programs the Naples Senior Center offers for the older population.

“I had a connection with somebody for breast cancer, and we said ‘Let’s make shawls,'” Zwicker said.

“I think I probably spend three quarters of the day knitting, sewing,” Martin said. She started sewing at 6. “I had a throat that was very sore and my mother wouldn’t let me go out. And she says, ‘You’re not just sitting there all day, you’re going to learn to knit!'”

Martin could never have anticipated how much that moment would define her role. She’s a breast cancer survivor, and now uses her knitting skills to help fellow survivors battling the disease.

“It’s our way of sending love,” Zwicker said.

“They can feel warm,” Martin said. “That’s a very important thing, because you’re quite cold after that kind of surgery.”

But this knitting operation was threatened March 2020, when the pandemic forced the senior center to close its doors and only allow virtual meet-ups. That didn’t stop Zwicker.
Each week, she picks up materials, meets her knitters in their driveways or parking lots and exchanges finished products for material.

“There’s some weeks I maybe drive 100 miles,” Zwicker said. “We’re doing something good for somebody.”

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