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Residents Support Breast Cancer Survivors through Library Knitting Program

Photo of Library Director Cheri Fiory

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a time when we recognize those who have been touched by this terrible disease, to acknowledge all that is being done to eradicate it, as well as the many ways and supports for those living with its effects. Even though October is behind us, I want to highlight this week how one special resident and her team of knitters are helping breast cancer survivors through a program in the Library.

Every Thursday evening at 7 pm for the last three years, Upper Dublin resident Anita Strainick has facilitated a knitting group at the Upper Dublin Public Library. The program had been her idea, a way for her share her love of knitting with others. “I wanted to be more social, and to bring something here, bring people to the Library,” she explains. She had attended a session of a knitting group at the Wissahickon Valley Public Library, but could not regularly attend its daytime program because she works.

The Upper Dublin Library program is really “open to anybody,” says Strainick. She’s had knitters at all ages and levels, including high school students and even a gentleman who wanted to complete his grandmother’s crocheted blanket. Two women have been coming since the program started. Strainick says that she tries to encourage everyone in their projects, and never tells them there’s a project that’s too difficult.

The knitting group provides not just a learning experience, but a social one as well. Strainick recollects the story of one participant, Louisa, a French native who spoke very little English. I feel like the knitting “broke the language barrier,” says Strainick.

According to Melinda Spink, another participant in the group and an experienced knitter, “The knitting group is a fun group of women that I look forward to visiting with every week. I find out a lot of what is going on in the community from the other knitters. I’ve become friends with Anita and we’ve had dinner and attended Vogue Knitting in NYC together, outside of the group. I think meeting women to knit once a week keeps me on track with my knitting project and is part of my social life.”

Anita, Melinda and a few of the other members of the Library group also give back through their support of Knitted Knockers , a nonprofit organization that provides free “handmade breast prosthesis for women who have undergone mastectomies or other procedures to the breast.” Anita manages a local chapter that supports Abington Hospital patients. So far, they have contributed 150 knockers to the cancer center.

While Anita rarely gets direct feedback from the women who benefit from the knockers because they are distributed by the doctors, she did receive a letter from one survivor which read, “I feel whole.”

Said Strainick, “I thought ‘Wow’ that I could do that for someone.”

Anita and her team of knitters were recently recognized by Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals for their creations in an article entitled Bosom Buddies (10/18/18).  Read the article here.

If you are interested in learning to knit, meeting with other knitters, or want to learn more about Knitted Knockers, stop by a meeting of the knitting group. They meet on Thursdays at 7 pm in the Upper Dublin Public Library Conference Room.

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