Made with Love: Meet our Charity Stitchers Aneeta Shepardson
There are many reasons we stitch — to reduce stress, to express our creativity, to bring warmth to a loved one or a person in need. In March, we asked our community to nominate a friend who knits or crochets for charity for our first ever Charity Stitchers Award. The responses were both heartwarming and overwhelming, and we were inspired by the hundreds of stories of how you have helped and enriched your communities with the heartfelt gift of a handmade item. Stitch by stitch, and row after row our three winners have brought comfort and hope to those in need.
Congratulations to Aneeta Shepardson, Rita Artuso, and Jamie Webb! Your spirit of generosity has not only made a great impact but has also inspired others to craft items made with love.
Ready to spark your creativity? Here are their stories!
To view the Charity Stitchers Lookbook Pattern Collection featuring the patterns named after our Charity Stitchers, click here.
*Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Aneeta is a high school teacher in Buffalo, NY where she gives of her time to share the gift of crochet with her students. Having learned to crochet themselves, her students have gone on to produce incredible amounts of charity projects under her leadership.
“I never thought my hobby would get me somewhere. I love making gifts for others — seeing their eyes light up brings me such joy. Knowing that they are so happy with the item, and how much thought and love I put into it, makes it so worthwhile.”
Can you tell us a little bit about your passion for the craft and where that comes from?
I love making items — I find crocheting to be very soothing. When I’m feeling stressed or just need a break from the craziness of my day, I will often pick up a hook and make something. There’s something special about seeing your creation come to life. I love starting with a ball of yarn and watching it become a piece. I also love that my hobby is productive. No matter what I’m making, it has a purpose — whether it’s a gift, a donation, or a request by one of my children — it will be something and go somewhere.
Have you always crafted for charity? How did you decide to donate your work?
I didn’t start crocheting for charity until a few years ago after the mother of one of my students was diagnosed with breast cancer. I made her a couple of chemo caps after she started treatment and her hair began to fall out. It was making those few caps that made me decide I wanted to take my hobby to the next level and donate to charities. Later that year, a few of my colleagues expressed interest in learning how to crochet and we made crochet-edged fleece loveys for Operation Christmas Child. Shortly after, students asked to learn too, and we started a club. We made more loveys and, this year, we made beanies and loveys for babies and winter attire and household items for refugee families.
Tell us about your favorite charity that you donate to. What attracted you to their mission?
I’m not sure if I have a favorite charity. I guess if I must pick, I would say American Heart Association (Little Hats, Big Hearts) and Relay for Life (an American Cancer Society fundraiser).
Last year, my husband shared an article with me about Little Hats, Big Hearts — and friends were tagging me in social media posts too! After reading the article, I knew I wanted to do it. So, I had a few friends join me in making hats and we sent in 50 little, red hats. This past year, I decided to do it again and some friends and students joined me. The challenge was to make more than 50 and we did — we ended up with close to 75!
Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society are very close to my heart. I work with our students organizing Relay for Life, and this year, we made chemo caps that attendees could sponsor. I also made many items to sell and donated all the money to the American Cancer Society.
Who are your biggest influences? Who or what inspired you to do what you’re doing now?
When I first started crocheting, it was to make a baby blanket for my niece. Now, it’s become a part of who I am. When it comes to what inspires me to make items for charity, it has to be my student and her mother that I mentioned earlier. Their struggle and love influenced me and made me want to be a better person. I admire her mother’s courage and strength. I admire her ability to manage school, extracurricular activities, and helping her mother through this difficult time.