As winter sets in again this year, many area children will again receive a much needed warm stocking cap from an unlikely source.
For more than five years, Jim and Arlene Acker of Saegertown have donated more than 500 hand-knitted hats a year to various charities.
Eighty-nine-year-old Jim started making stocking caps several years ago as a dare and to keep busy in the evenings. He makes his hats using a knitting ring and donated or purchased yarn. The first year he knitted a few hats and his wife, Arlene, 87, entered one for him at the Crawford County Fair. It won a ribbon. At first he only knitted part of the hat; his wife finished them and then added a pompom on top. Now he does the entire process.
One-hundred hats go each year to the Sertoma Club for needy area children. Saegertown resident Phyllis Carr, a retired PENNCREST School District teacher, takes the remainder and distributes them to area schools including the Conneaut Lake area, Maplewood Elementary School and Saegertown. She also distributes them to the Crawford County Care Center in Saegertown, the Fairview-Fairmont Center near Meadville and the Center for Family Services in Meadville and Women’s Services in Meadville.
The hats don’t only benefit children in Pennsylvania. The Ackers spend their winters in Avon Park, Fla. Some years winter moves further south and impacts Florida. A local bus driver who lives in the Avon Park neighborhood where Jim and Arlene stay takes hats to give to fellow bus drivers, as well as to children on the bus route. And this year hats are going to a Florida church that provides holiday gifts to children who have a parent in prison.
Earlier this year Jim fell and broke a hip, resulting in surgery and a stay in a rehabilitation facility. But that did not slow him down. Hats continued to roll off his knitting ring and by the time he was ready to go home, many of the staff were sporting his creations.