Crafts lead to the greater good

SMOKEY POINT — Wanda Gilleland needed something to do.

The retired Boeing employee was recuperating after a surgery in 1998 when she decided to join a craft group in her Smokey Point mobile home park.

In the park’s clubhouse, three women sat embroidering dish towels. Gilleland brought along some of her crocheted baby hats, which she planned to take to Cascade Valley Hospital in Arlington.

“They took one look at the hats,” Gilleland said, “and well, that opened a can of worms.”

Ten years later, the craft group has grown to include dozens of members who have sewed, knitted and crocheted more than 10,000 donated items such as newborn baby hats and layettes, caps for cancer patients, blankets and pillows for kids and lap robes for those in wheelchairs.

Just last year, the group increased its production and donated 2,000 pieces, half of which were children’s fleece blankets edged and appliqueed by Gilleland.

“Our work has kept us girls out of the pool halls,” Gilleland, 77, said with a grin. “It gets us off our derrieres.”

All age 55 and older, the group donates its work to Cascade Valley Hospital, along with both campuses of Providence Hospital in Everett, Delta Rehabilitation Center at the Snohomish Chalet and to Healing the Children for its nonprofit work in Central America.

JoAnn DeLazzari, a fellow craft group member and Healing the Children employee, said Gilleland is a natural leader and mentor.

“Wanda’s very committed to what she’s doing, and she’s constantly encouraging all the women in the group,” DeLazzari said. “She’s very maternal.”

Wanda grew up on a farm near Spokane and learned needle arts from her mother.

She married early, had four boys and later moved to Everett. As a laminator, she worked on the interiors of the Boeing 727, 737, 747 and 757 jetliners.

Her second marriage to Dave Gilleland in 1975 resulted in an extended family that now includes seven children, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Dave Gilleland likes to joke that he gets to see his wife once in a while and that she does come out of her sewing room for several hours a day.

“I usually have three projects going at the same time,” Wanda Gilleland said. “After all those years at Boeing, my hands have got to be busy.”

On a recent day, Gilleland was finishing some children’s blankets, working on an afghan and making picnic placemats from plastic shopping bags.

Gilleland also stays busy shopping at sales and buying craft materials for the group. She makes the donation deliveries, fills scrapbooks with photos and thank-you cards for the women and keeps meticulous records.

“I decided to keep track of our donations for curiosity’s sake,” she said. “It’s all fun.”

On Tuesday afternoons, Gilleland makes a couple pots of coffee at the Crystal Tree mobile home park clubhouse and enjoys her time with the craft group.

Over the years, the group has included Ann Dolph, Gail Pope, AnnaVee Carlson, Audrey Haugen, Martha Coruilli, Eva Hagen, Lois Ihme, Anne Randell, Margaret Hofseth, Kitrina Simpson, Vi Hawley, Marienne Carns, Pat Wetzel, Kathy Carrol, Dorothy Kouyian, Sharon Wilson, Oleah Hopke, Roberta Filari, Marguerite Clark, Wanda Reser, Betty Cole, Dorothy Cogdill, Bev Downs, Frances Wilson, Elsie Gadway, Marjorie Francis, Grace Huizinga, Betty Trapp, Georgian Heckland, Margaret Huggins, Dee McElory and Bessie Lepo.

The group also included the late, and well-remembered, members Lolita Jones, Ernestina Richardson, Alice Johnson, Marion Smith and Phyllis Rutherford.

Celebrating 10 years with the “crafty girls” is a highlight for Gilleland, she said.

“Our craft work makes us feel good,” Gilleland said. “We’ll keep doing this until our fingers don’t work anymore.”

Reporter Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427 or gfiege@heraldnet.com.

You can help

The Crystal Tree craft group accepts donations of sewing and knitting materials. For information, call Wanda Gilleland at 360-652-8846.

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