ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - Many ladies, and some men, sew, embroidery, crochet, or knit, for relaxation. It can be a very effective form of meditation, so there's nothing wrong with a man crocheting.
Once upon a time there were a few ladies in Ascension Parish that began knitting and crocheting together as a hobby. They originally gathered as women that shared a mutual fondness for the art of creation through the use of colored yarn. Through word of mouth over time their group grew.
This group, now more than 20 in number, meet every single Thursday afternoon at the Council on Aging on Irma Street in Gonzales. The Council on Aging loves having these ladies there each week and has kindly donated the space for their weekly gathering.
They call themselves the Louisiana Cajun Needlers of Ascension. Their hobby has turned into a charity of sorts. These women donate their creations to organizations like Braveheart Louisiana Foster Children's Association, Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, various churches, nursing homes, hospitals, homeless organizations and the like.
And it's not just any item mind you. The women of Louisiana Cajun Needlers create items most needed by these organizations – blankets, baby items, chemo caps, scarves, Christmas stockings, capes, shawls, and more.
"I call them our Cajun Elves," said Whitney Craig, the Children and Family Program Director for Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge. "For the past, I don't know how long but a very long time, they have been donating hand-made, well into the thousands, stockings for our families. So each of our children at the holiday party every year will get a stocking that has been made with love and so much effort. This year they made over 200 stockings!"
And the recipients of these hand crafted Christmas stockings are extremely moved by the gesture.
"The kids understand, the children and the families, that somebody has made these for them," Whitney said. "And each of the families know that someone has thought about them outside of their usual circle. And particularly when they're going through really difficult treatments; it's not something that you want to have to go through. So to have other people thinking about you, and these ladies put so much effort into it, it's really important for those families I think to get that extra hug, kind of, through the holiday season. And those families know that someone is doing this for them, appreciate it. And those ladies are just so willing and so eager to help us absolutely every year."
Judy LeBourgeois agrees. Judy is an honorary member of Louisiana Cajun Needlers and often visits them during their Thursday sessions. So Judy contacted me about the possibility of recognizing the group with WAFB's Hand It On tribute.
Judy has not seen the ladies in a while due to the recent floods and other situations and agreed to bring them a cake one Thursday. Little did the ladies of Louisiana Cajun Needlers know in addition to the cake, Judy was also bringing WAFB!
With the camera rolling, I followed Judy into the sewing room at the Council on Aging facility, and we caught the surprise on camera!
"I nominated the Louisiana Cajun Needlers because of all of the great work that y'all do for the community: for the Cancer Foundation; for the homeless women; for the battered women; for the preemie babies; for the Brave Heart; and everything else," Judy began, her voice quivering. "So, on behalf of all you ladies, I want to give this $300 to your president, treasurer, Kathryn Morin, to do whatever y'all need to do with this."
Judy said as she handed three crisp, new $100 bills to Kathryn.
"You're gonna make me cry," said Kathryn as she embraced a teary-eyed Judy LeBourgeois. "Thank y'all very much. Yes, thank you very much. That's wonderful. We can definitely use it."
Judy struggled to get the words out but finally said, "We love you, and we thank y'all for all of the good that y'all do for the community and all of the people who are deserving of it. Use the money how ever y'all want, to replenish your stock of the ones who've lost in flood or whatever, and enjoy it, and continue to do your good work!"
And as we were wrapping up, a voice from the left side of the room piped up. "You promised to bring a cake. Where's the cake?" exclaimed an unidentified person with a crochet needle in hand.
As agreed, I reached around to the coffee station behind me and uncovered a beautiful cake with white icing and decorated with a pink breast cancer ribbon and the words "Cajun Needlers" on top.
We ate cake, drank coffee, and visited for the next hour. What a great day spent with such a wonderful group of women. So talented, so giving, so much love.
To nominate someone or a group for WAFB's Hand It On award, send an e-mail to HandItOn@wafb.com. Make sure to include your contact information especially your phone number.