QUINCY, Ill. (AP) — Edith Kroencke is not content to sit around at age 99. She likes to keep her head and her hands busy.
Each day for the last 12 years, the Curtis Creek Senior Living resident cuts, sews, stuffs and closes small teddy bears to donate to children at Blessing Hospital.
Kroencke cuts donated fabric one day, then the next day she’ll use a sewing machine to connect the pieces. She has some help stuffing the creations, then she again gets behind her sewing machine to close up the teddy bears. It’s on to the next set of bears after that, and she repeats the process.
“She does 30 bears a month,” Kroencke’s daughter Ruth Ann Weisenberger said. “She always used to sew quilts by hand, and working on the bears is something she took up when she moved into Curtis Creek.”
In 2005, the year Kroencke moved into Curtis Creek, the senior living facility created an outlet for people to sew the bears. At the time, it was Kroencke and another woman who volunteered their talents and time. Now, it’s mainly Kroencke who makes the bears.
“I’d say 90 percent of the bears are made by Edith. Sometimes other ladies pitch in. She’s very dedicated and keeps up the project,” Curtis Creek enrichment coordinator Missy Runser said. “She irons out the fabric so there are no wrinkles, and you can catch her always working on them. It’s her baby.”
Kroencke will turn 100 in October, and she has no plans to stop sewing.
“I love it. If it weren’t for the bears, then I wouldn’t have anything to do,” Kroencke said. “I’m very proud of them, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment. It keeps my fingers busy.”
Blessing Hospital began the bear project about 25 years ago as a way to provide comfort to children who visit the emergency room or walk-in clinic, and occasionally people in pediatrics and radiology will grab some to give to children there, Blessing Hospital’s volunteer services program coordinator Christy Woodward said. Volunteers make the bears in-house or in outside groups.
Although Woodward is not familiar with Kroencke, she is well aware of the output of the Curtis Creek group.
“Since 2007, the Curtis Creek group has donated more than 7,000 hours, which equates to more than 1,800 teddy bears made,” she said.