Like many Mother Bear Project knitters, Priscilla Homola describes herself as being "hooked" on knitting bears. Over the past 6 years she has knit 444 bears and she doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
"I aim for 100 bears a year. About two a week," Homola said. "Mother Bear Project is my number one charity I donate to."
Homola first read about Mother Bear Project in a book called Knitting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time by Betty Christiansen.
"At first I knit just two bears," Homola said. "After a year, I tried again, and I was hooked! Every time I try to quit, I keep thinking about those beautiful children waiting for my bears, and I’m spurred on again."
Homola explained her initial slow start to knitting bears: "At first I didn't think of our bears as primary—after all, they're not food or clothing or medicine or education. But the more I consider, this is as important as food or drink. It is tangible love, direct from our needles. Often, I'll see a photo of a child holding one of my bears, and I think this child may never have had a toy to love, ever. And now they have someone to tell stories to, to sing to, to hug close."
Homola is creative with her bear designs. She knits themed bears, such as bears for holidays and characters out of storybooks, like her Red Riding Hood Bear.
"I had fun figuring out panda bears!" she remarked.
Homola is thankful to her mother - a self-taught knitter for Church World Service - who passed down to Priscilla the itch to knit. She is also eager to give thanks to the "yarn shop ladies all over the country who support us in our projects" and to the many people she knits with: her good friend Diana Standen, her knitting group, and her sisters Margaret and Cindi - all of whom have sent at least a bear or two to Mother Bear Project.
Homola remembers looking through a few Mother Bear Project photos of children with their bear and making a delightful discovery.
"I studied a group shot of about a dozen primary school girls in South Africa," Homola recalled. "I saw Cindi's bear, but standing next to her - it could have been her sister - was a girl holding my bear. Two sisters - or best friends - had received bears from two sisters who live a thousand miles from each other. It was probably the most touching moment for me."
Through photos like these, Homola appreciates that Mother Bear Project gives her the opportunity to see her direct impact on the children she knits for.
"What I love about Mother Bear Project is that, somehow, through Amy's devotion, industry, and organizational know-how, we are participating in a grass-roots organization that we know is reaching the children we want to connect with,” she said. "There are few places that give such a reward to the giver."