Most of us have been doing volunteer work after we have grown up and some when we were in
High School. I sold candy and tickets for various high school projects and also worked in the school library checking out books and putting them back on the shelves.
I taught Sunday School for 15 years and did a lot of various church projects and also worked in
various organizations selling fruit cakes and making cookies for band and orchestra organizations.
I will be telling you about several different projects that I have worked on in the past 20 years.
In 1993 Penney Brownfield called me from High School and asked if I would help her with a project with her EMH girls. She said she had 6 girls and no boys in her last hour class and she wanted to teach them how to knit and how to embroider. I have been doing embroidery, sewing and tatting since I was 10 years old and taught myself to knit when I was working as a telegraph operator on the railroad in 1945. I relieved agents in small towns like Nash, Hillsdale and Burlington and in the fall there was about 2 hours of work a day in the small agencies. So to keep my sanity I would sit around and do handwork.
I started in Penneys class in January of 1993 and went to class 3 or 4 times a week for an hour. I had lots of knitting needles and yarn and so I took all my supplies with me and gave them to the girls. I had not worked with young people classified as EMH and handicapped. 2 or 3 of the girls were
from the Legion home and there were 2 native American girls. I am quite impatient with an adult that does not catch on fast. I did not know how I would handle repeating instructions.
I had to repeat and repeat maybe 25 or 30 times and it did not bother me. Lo and behold all the girls learned how to do the garter stitch and one Native American girl learned how to purl. They loved it and Penney said on the days I was not there that they finished their homework and were so eager to knit.
Penney bought pillow cases and had them stamped with a butterfly design, she had them color the design on paper so we would know where to fill in the colors. I again brought floss and embroidery needles from home. I taught the girls outline, chain stitch, French knots and satin stitch. They learned that and I had to show them several different times.
Other young people in regular school knew what was going on and they would come by and ask if I could not come to study hall and teach them. On day after having been gone for a few days I walked in between 5th and 6th hour and one of the regular students saw me and said where I could hear ‘Oh look grandma is back.’
Penney said to me several months ago that she saw one of the girls and she mentioned about how much she enjoyed the time I spent in the classroom teaching the girls. That was a fun experience and am glad that I made to effort to do it.
The next experience along the same lines was at the Legion school. Earlene Matthiessen was the teachers aid and the regular teacher was out of town for a couple of weeks and Earlene wanted to know if I would help her with art work.
The students were boys and girls that could not attend regular school because of behavior
problems. So here I go again. I started out the first day with knitting needles and yarn. That did not appeal to only about 3 of the 12 students, so I had to come up with something else. So I had lots of 4 inch squares of denim and corduroy cut out so the next day I took them out to work on. Five or 6 of the students liked that and they begin hand sewing the squares together. Then 2 or 3 of the boys wanted to learn how to sew a button on and how to mend their clothes. So I took some needles and thread and taught the boys how to do that.
I had black, white and native American children in the class and the 3rd day the black and native American young people were calling me Grandma. Maybe the only stable person they loved were their grandmothers.
Two or 3 of the native American girls were bored with the 3 projects that I had going so I got out my stash of beads and took them out. That was a big hit. Several put their 9 patches together and I brought them home put backing on and stuffing in and they had a pillow.
One of the boys worked hard sewing every day and he sewed 49 denim squares together. He asked me if I would put a backing on and stuffing. He had a nice large pillow and he sold it to one of the house Mothers for $15.00 that was the frosting on the cake and I have laughed about that for twenty years.
The next different sewing experience happened about 10 years ago. Velma Jones a Native American adult of 93 years of age called and started talking and asked if I would come out to White Eagle as she was going to teach as class on ribbon work. This is the decoration that the Native American people use on their dance dresses. She wanted me to help keep the sewing machines adjusted and in the process I would learn ribbon work. We met about 3 hours every week for about 6 weeks. We learned to make original designs and how to machine stitch the designs to the material . They use satin material for their garments and the cloth designs are satin. If you wish to see examples of their clothing go down to Sharps Pawn Shop on South 2nd St in Ponca City Okla.
Most of the women attending were retired nurses that had come back to Ponca City from other parts of the country. I run into some of the women and they always tell me how much they liked the class.
Velma Jones died about 6 years ago. She had worked at the 101 ranch and is the Mother of Danny Jones who at that time was the Ponca tribal leader. Donna Jones Flood is her daughter and a well know local artist. One of Donnas pictures is in the post office on the east wall.
My last bit of volunteer work was at Marlands Children home. I was asked by one of the Elk Lodge members if I would be interest in teaching about 10 girls out at the Marlands Children home knitting. The Lodge gave me money for supplies and I went out there in the summer for a couple of hours every week and several of the girls learned to knit. Then we started doing some other hand work. We made nine patch pillows and we make book marks and we did a few embroidery stitches and then later on we did a lot of work with beads.
Some of the girls learned very fast and some had never done any kind of craft work. They were from broken homes and had all kind of problems. The girls were thoughtful of me and again I was grandma. I also had a mix of white, black and native American girls and they seemed to get along quite well. I always had an aid in the class. I stopped teaching about 6 months ago as the population of the school went down from 45 to about 16 and I only had about one girl that was interested in doing hand work.
This is the story of some interesting volunteer work at least for me.