Merlene Davis: Eldercrafters socialize and serve the community

Linda Leavell of Eldercrafters crocheted strips of plastic bags into a mat for the homeless. "It is really hard to do," said Leavell.
Linda Leavell of Eldercrafters crocheted strips of plastic bags into a mat for the homeless. "It is really hard to do," said Leavell.

It isn't easy for Linda Leavell to do what she does, especially with arthritic fingers and hands.

Still, she and other members of Eldercrafters managed to make about 15 bed rolls and a few pillows from plastic shopping bags that were to be distributed to the homeless. The mats averaged about 36 inches wide and six feet long and each had an attached strap for easy carrying.

The group of craftswomen started the project before Christmas and ended a couple of weeks ago, said Ann Greene, president of Eldercrafters.

"People donated the plastic bags and we had them everywhere," Greene said. "We had thousands of them."

The women, who range in age from at least 60 to 96, soon discovered crocheting plastic is not as easy as manipulating yarn on aging fingers. Those who couldn't crochet cut the strips, tied them together and then rolled them into balls like yarn.

"It is really hard to do," said Leavell, who has served as the group's office manager for 16 years. "It hurts your hands."

The mats were given to the Community Action Council's Retired Senior Volunteer Program for distribution to those in need.

The women probably won't be crocheting plastic again any time soon. But be assured, they're not just sitting around, not even Margaret White, who is the most senior member at 96.

The group is scheduled to be at a Derby party Thursday, some wearing hats they made themselves.

A couple of weeks ago, they traveled to Dayton to tour the Patterson Homestead, early home of founders of the National Cash Register Company, and later attended the La Comedia Dinner Theatre.

In past months, they have toured the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, the National Underground Railroad Museum in Maysville, and the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville.

And on Tuesdays, they bowl. They pay for the outings themselves.

Founded in the early 1980s by Audrey Grevious and Helen Mason, Eldercrafters is now a satellite program site of the Lexington Senior Center. Members must be at least 60 and residents of Fayette County. Recently the program, which is funded by the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government department of social services, was united with Community Action's Elder Nutrition Program giving them more accessible room at the Black & Williams Center and lunch for a small donation.

In addition to traveling, the women volunteer their crafting skills for community projects, such as making pillow case dresses for a program at the Lyric Theatre & Cultural Arts Center, and sewing quilts or crocheting Afghans for nursing home residents. They have also made hats and blankets for babies at the Shriners Hospital, and they prepare and paint ceramic pieces for themselves.

Greene, who joined the group nearly 20 years ago, said she has served as president for 14 years, after being appointed by Grevious.

"We try to gear our service to the community," she said. "This group was formed so ladies of color could have some place to go."

Leavell said she looked forward to retirement so she could join the group. Her mother and two aunts, former members, often came home with items they had made.

"I couldn't wait to go and do some of that stuff," she said.

Ramona Powell joined in 1993 and has become one of the women who comes up with crafts to make and then teaches the group.

Olivia Cooper comes to socialize to volunteer in activities that benefit the community. If it weren't for the crafters, she said, "I would be home watching television and that is not good."

A chorus of voices agreed.

"This is an outing for us," Greene said.


Eldercrafters meets from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mon.-Thurs. at the Black & Williams Center, 498 Georgetown St. Call (859) 252-1288 for more information.