Hundreds of Far North babies will be warm when they are tucked into bed tonight thanks to the efforts of a group of Kerikeri women.
The Kerikeri Busy Bees meet once a fortnight at the Baptist church on Hobson Ave where they knit, sew and crochet extraordinary numbers of infant-sized beanies, booties, cardies and blankets.
The items are distributed by Kerikeri charity The Bald Angels to midwives, Plunket, police, Women's Refuge and others working at the coalface of child poverty in the Far North.
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The group came about after a chance meeting between Jenny Jackson and Daphne Gilbertson.
Jenny used to knit baby beanies which were sent overseas while Daphne used to live in Whangaparaoa where she had a group of ladies who knitted all manner of babywear for South Auckland families.
"I often thought it would be better to support local babies but did nothing about it until I met Daphne. She told me of her interest in doing something similar in Kerikeri for Northland babies in need. Her absolute passion at 90 years old is to keep tiny babies warm so they don't get sick in the early months," Jenny said.
After enlisting a group of volunteers and meeting Bald Angels founder Therese Wickbom, the Busy Bees got to work. They now have 23 women in the Baptist Church group, of which about a dozen come to the fortnightly get-togethers, and another 12 in an Orchard Estate group. They range in age from 20 to 90.
"You're never too old to knit," Jenny insists.
Most of the knitting is done at home but the get-togethers are a chance to catch up, drop off finished work and swap patterns, as well as giving the participants a sense of companionship and worth.
Once a month the Busy Bees hand over several large sacks of baby clothing and blankets. Daphne, who has commercial sewing machines at home, also produces cot blankets by covering recycled mattress protectors with flannelette.
At first the group relied on donations and wool they bought themselves, but the costs soon started mounting up. As the Busy Bees grew in number and were asked to make "angel sacks" – knitted, baby-size sleeping bags with a hood – they had to start applying for grants.
"Unfortunately we don't get to hear from the end recipients, the mums that ultimately use our baby knits. We'd love to know how useful they find the angel sacks in particular. But the feedback from the agencies is positive and they say, 'Keep knitting, the need is greater than you will ever understand'."
■ The Busy Bees need knitting wool of any kind, but especially four-ply and double knitting wool, as well as mattress protectors for making cot blankets. Donations can be dropped off at Kerikeri Baptist Church on Hobson Ave any morning. If you want to join call Jenny Jackson on 021 484 009.