"Mother Bear Project gathers momentum in The Villages "
The Villages' Daily Sun
By Daisy Moon
THE VILLAGES - Eva Lou Weeden feels that few things are quite so comforting to a child as a small, stuffed animal.
That¹s why she recently decided to join the efforts of the Mother Bear Project, a worldwide nonprofit organization whose members hand-knit or crochet bears for children affected by HIV/AIDS in Africa and Haiti. As she sat among a group of volunteers in El Santiago Recreation Center on Thursday, the Village of Springdale resident had her needles in hand, preparing to knit her third bear in a matter of weeks.
"It certainly gives you a feeling that you¹re doing something worthwhile for someone else," Weeden said.
Weeden is one of a group of Villagers who have met during the past several months, working together to produce bundles of bears that will be ready for shipment by the end of March.
While the Mother Bear Project boasts volunteers from throughout the world, The Villages only recently has become a donor to the program.
The woman credited with introducing the program to the area is Mary Alice Schueler, who began involving her neighbors after knitting bears for more than a year.
The Village of Santiago resident heard about Mother Bear around Christmas 2007, when she purchased a book that mentioned the program. Ever since, Schueler has devoted her crafty talents to creating the charming little creatures.
"It¹s great; it¹s fun," she said, looking around at each table covered with a bounty of colorful yarn, some of which had been donated by other Villagers.
"It¹s really taken off," Schueler added with a smile.
In early 2009, Schueler held an initial Mother Bear meeting at her house, but the attendance was so overwhelming that the group now must meet at a recreation center.
"The interest was beyond what I could fit in my home," Schueler said. The overwhelming turnout of knitters was a blessing in more ways than one. Not only do the ladies have the satisfaction of brightening a child¹s otherwise dark world, they also have the opportunity to enjoy one another¹s friendship as they work side-by-side.
At her table in a far corner of the room, new-to-the-cause knitter Weeden sensed the feeling of fulfillment.
"It¹s a great way to meet new friends here in The Villages," she said, adding,"It really is so rewarding to be part of this group." Weeden expressed a wish that other members of the group likely have, too. "Cuddling a bear is often the answer to many problems," she said. "I wish we could see the smiles on the children¹s faces when they see the bears."
For additional information on the Mother Bear Project, visit motherbearproject.org.