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Macier: Two Cayuga County women finding new ways to help during COVID-19
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Macier: Two Cayuga County women finding new ways to help during COVID-19

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Just a few short months ago, many of us were thrown out of our normal routines and required to stay home away from work, family, friends and our otherwise busy lives. Some of us saw this as an opportunity to rest and recharge, others felt confined and looked for new outlets or new things to do. Such was the case for Lucy Ware, of Port Byron.

Lucy lives an active life, and always has. She’s a retired registered nurse and currently works as a transportation aide for the Weedsport Central School District. She’s a widow and takes care of her 8-year-old grandson evenings after school.

She’s the deputy town clerk for the town of Mentz, an EMT with the Port Byron ambulance, and volunteers with the fire department. When the state went on pause, so did most of the things she was involved in. According to Lucy, she really needed something to do to help pass the time.

As Lucy tells her story, when the “whole pandemic thing started I found a partially knitted pair of mittens in some yarn that I had and decided to finish them.” The mittens were originally for her grandson, but he had already outgrown them. She says she has knitted and crocheted for years.

Anyhow, Lucy decided to finish that pair and then do a few more for “kids that needed them.” The total got up to 20 pairs in three different sizes, so she decided to continue with a goal of knitting 100 pairs and giving them away to somewhere that would distributed them. Somewhere along the way, she heard about the Warm the Children coat distribution program and reached out, offering to donate the mittens.

Lucy really enjoyed the project, as it was something she could do sitting around, watching television or talking on the phone. And it gave her some purpose and meaning. She used yarn she had on hand or purchased some. It was difficult to find yarn locally, and she ended up purchasing some online. In total, the project cost less than $100.

Lucy recently completed her goal and delivered 102 pairs of what she calls “good, old-fashioned mittens” crafted from a pattern her mother originally used many years ago. The mittens will now go to kids throughout Cayuga County.

Melody Smith Johnson is working on a similar project to benefit the Auburn Rescue Mission. “My Hands Warm Your Heart — By Women for Women,” in partnership with the Schweinfurth Art Center, is working to collect handcrafted scarves and knitted outwear that will then be donated to the women served by the programs of the Rescue Mission.

Melody recently relocated to the Weedsport area, and has lost no time in becoming ingrained in the community. She is the owner of Design Coverings, which she says helps women experience “bedazzling beauty every day.” She plans to add some of that bedazzling attractiveness to the knitted items.

In addition to her retail business, Melody is the founder of the Beverly L. Smith Empowerment Initiative. Named in honor of her late mother, this program provides scholarships, mentoring and counseling to young women of color. In the past five years, it has granted some $70,000.

Melody recalled how her mother instilled in her the important role clothes play in helping people secure jobs and feel good about themselves. Melody continues that by ensuring that the young women she helps have the professional attire necessary for those important interviews as well. Last year, she partnered with Auburn Public Theater on a very successful professional attire clothing drive that collected both attire and accessories.

Melody is hoping that many people will knit or crochet a hat, mittens, scarf or other item for this project, and that it will become an annual event. Melody said that this is “art as activism” and a way to create “good trouble.”

She selected the Rescue Mission for its work with women, especially those who are survivors of domestic violence. She said, “This work speaks to me and where I come from … it’s often difficult to feel good about yourself when you going through a tough time, and having something that makes you feel a bit more beautiful is huge.”

For more information, contact Melody @mydivinecoverings on Facebook and Instagram, or divinecoverings.com.

Karen A. Macier, of Auburn, is executive director of the United Way of Cayuga County and has spent 20 years working and volunteering in the not-for-profit sector.

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