COLUMBIA — Cecile Thorpe, 91, and Lucille Wayland, 80, have spent much of the the past year knitting 53 small sweaters in a range of colorful patterns.
Next month, the sweaters will be packaged up and shipped to children around the world.
The two women are donating their work to Lamb’s Wool, a nonprofit knitting project that adds the sweaters to Operation Christmas Child.
The Christmas charity sends shoeboxes filled with small gifts to children in more than 130 countries, including the United States. In 2010, the program sent out 8 million shoeboxes.
Last year, many were donated to victims of the Joplin tornado.
Thorpe and Wayland knit on behalf of the First Presbyterian Church on Hitt Street, which is affiliated with Lamb’s Wool. Filling the shoeboxes begins annually on Oct. 1.
All of the programs belong to Samaritan's Purse, a nondenominational humanitarian organization based in North Carolina that tends to people suffering from war, poverty, disaster, disease and famine.
Sweater sizes range from infant up to a size 3. They must be small enough to fit in the shoebox, along with shoes, personal supplies and toys.
The sweaters cannot have buttons, which can be a choking hazard, and white yarn is discouraged. It is a symbol of death in many foreign countries.
Sweaters are even needed even in regions with hot climates, the two women say. There, warm days can be followed by chilly nights, and malnourished children are often at risk for hypothermia.
Thorpe has been knitting for 76 years. During World War II, she took her first train to California to marry her husband, Dale, who was then in the service.
“I knitted argyle stockings all the way out there,” she said.
Wayland knits an hour or two a night while she watches TV. She can finish two or three sweaters a month.
Both women say they think often of the children they’re knitting for as they work.
“You really wish you could see them snuggle up in those sweaters. Especially if they’re not used to having anything,” Wayland said.
Thorpe agreed, “Sometimes I want to put my name in one and see if anyone writes back.”
The program is looking for more local knitters. To get involved, call Wayland at 446-1060.