Aleph Swanson (from left), Pearl Hebert and Marilyn Carter work to complete a candy wreath at a recent work party for the AOK Club at the Washington Oakes Retirement Community in Everett. The finished wreaths are sold to benefit local charities. It’s just one of the club’s year-round activities to support local nonprofits. (Melissa Slager / The Herald)

Aleph Swanson (from left), Pearl Hebert and Marilyn Carter work to complete a candy wreath at a recent work party for the AOK Club at the Washington Oakes Retirement Community in Everett. The finished wreaths are sold to benefit local charities. It’s just one of the club’s year-round activities to support local nonprofits. (Melissa Slager / The Herald)

The retirees of the AOK Club are crafty fundraisers

Every year, their assembly line creates candy wreaths to raise money for charities.

EVERETT — More than 100 pounds of candy. Over 200 hours spent sewing, wrapping, wiring, gluing and tying. A bolt and a half of festive green netting. Too many glue-gun sticks to count (and the minor fingertip burns that come with them).

In the end, about $1,500 for local charities.

All thanks to an endless amount of giving spirit.

The AOK Club has been hard at work this holiday season. The group, which focuses on “Acts of Kindness” throughout the year, is made up of residents at Washington Oakes Retirement Community in north Everett. They recently wrapped up their annual holiday candy wreath benefit.

“It’s been a hard job, but it’s been a fun job,” said Barbara Callaghan, 84, vice president of the AOK Club.

The AOK Club at Washington Oakes Retirement Community’s finished wreaths are sold to benefit local charities. It’s just one of the club’s year-round activities to support local nonprofits. (Melissa Slager / The Herald)

The AOK Club at Washington Oakes Retirement Community’s finished wreaths are sold to benefit local charities. It’s just one of the club’s year-round activities to support local nonprofits. (Melissa Slager / The Herald)

Residents gathered for work parties throughout the fall to create more than 100 festive wreaths, which feature more than a pound of candy each for buyers to give away to guests at the holidays.

The wreaths were sold for $15 each. Many now hang on residents’ doors. Family members took batches to their workplaces to sell to co-workers.

“We’ve got quite the system going,” Callaghan said at the last wreath work party of the year earlier this month.

AOK Club President Marilyn Carter, 92, started the wreath project. She had started making wreaths more than 65 years ago, when her daughter was in dancing school. She picked up the fundraiser idea and improved upon it over the years. She pays for most of the supplies out of her own pocket.

A gentleman cuts the round plywood bases at the Washington Oakes wood shop.

A retired school teacher and home economics major then wraps the circles with green crepe paper.

Many volunteers then step in to wrap the rounds with wire, attaching candy as they go.

At the recent work party, Aleph Swanson, 92, and Pearl Hebert, 88, glued ruffled green netting around a plywood frame, while Carter tied festive red bows — the finishing touches.

Ruth Duffy — at age 72, called “the baby” of the group — wrapped the finished wreaths and attached hangers to display them for sale. Bags of saltwater taffy and strawberry-filled hard candies sat in baskets, available to purchase for refills.

Callaghan picked up a bit of ruffle she had made earlier. She raised her eyebrows and shook her head. “I sat at the sewing machine for hours.”

The last work party was a small affair, with just eight wreaths left to finish. Earlier in the season, dozens of volunteers filled the room, chatting and laughing as they worked. The event helped engage residents who struggle with dementia or Alzheimer’s, Carter noted. “We got them out of their room working on this. It’s been good therapy,” she said.

Club members look forward to tallying the final sales and deciding where to send the money.

Aleph Swanson (left) and Pearl Hebert glue ruffled netting to a candy wreath. (Melissa Slager / The Daily Herald)

Aleph Swanson (left) and Pearl Hebert glue ruffled netting to a candy wreath. (Melissa Slager / The Daily Herald)

In the past, their fundraiser proceeds have gone to nonprofits focused on hospice care, domestic violence prevention, senior meal delivery and homeless teens.

“So far we’ve been trying to do somebody different each time and spread it around,” Callaghan said.

Other fundraisers throughout the year include a garage sale, a raffle and a “Date With a Server” drive that auctioned off a lunch date with kitchen staff. That was a popular one.

Next up is a raffle for a donated Red Skelton painting that is valued at over $400.

Club members are finalizing details for that one. Raffle ticket sales are likely to start by February. The public will be welcome to purchase raffle tickets, too.

“Everything that we do is for charity,” Callaghan said.

Melissa Slager: mslager@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3432.

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