Founded as the Sew What Club in 1996 with 20 members, the current Sew What Stitches and Crafts Club has nearly 800 members and is a valuable member of the community.
"We have 787 members as of May 2013. We have added 204 new members in 2013,'' said Helen Cowan, the club's president. Cowan has been a member of the club for eight years and was a vice president for two years.
When Cowan became president in January 2013, the club's name was changed to reflect the expansion of its members' interests and activities.
"If you want to work with your hands, the club offers any kind of craft â€" knitting, crocheting, stamping, basket weaving, scrapbooking, fine needlework, special classes on painting, beading, quilting galore. I can't keep track of all that goes on.
"We have a class starting in September on making clothing. Our home decor group is a very big group â€" we have special speakers who come in to talk about how to use stuff in your house, to repurpose it to make a beautiful table. I have a bunch of scarves squashed up on my dining room table and it looks great. I learned that from the home decor group,'' Cowan said.
'Someone cares for you' The club helps the community in a variety of ways, including its Because You're Special project, which provides a free bag of hand-knitted items to Sun City women undergoing cancer treatment. The club's stamping group makes a card that is included with each basket.
"We do this anonymously," Cowan said. "The bag can contain hats, shrugs for the cold, booties with wool that is so soft and gentle on the skin, little scarves to put on the neck. ... Anything to keep the individual comfortable and warm, and just to know someone cares for you.''
Another community project is the Our Caring Creations group's bags and pillows that are distributed to doctors and hospitals for cancer victims.
"The bags are designed to carry all the information that a patient receives as well as any personal items they take to their treatment. The pillow provides a comfortable place to rest your arm while undergoing hours of chemotherapy,'' Cowan said.
Quilting from the heart Between 30 and 40 club members teach various crafts, including quilting. The club donates Caring Quilts to CODA, a group against domestic violence, and to women's pregnancy centers for use by displaced families.
"It's confidential. We don't know the recipients (of our quilts). If there is an individual who is escaping a domestic violence situation and needs a place to stay, a lot of times they have nothing with them. The quilt provides comfort for the individual and for the kids.''
The Quilts for Heroes group creates patriotic quilts for returning injured veterans that are given to individuals, veterans' hospitals and the Lt. Dan Foundation.
Club members regularly attend and win ribbons at the annual Quiltfest, held this year from Sept. 26-28 in Jacksonville, Fla.
A project special to members' hearts is the creation of blankets for parents and babies in a hospital's neo-natal intensive care unit.
"(Members) also craft beautiful remembrance envelopes and dresses to be used by grieving parents. These items are often created from wedding dresses that are donated to the group,'' Cowan said.
In 2012, a member asked if anyone would be interested in knitting/crocheting a preemie cap. The caps were to be donated to a NICU to celebrate the first birthday of a child that had spent 86 days in the unit. Within a month, over 800 hats were donated,'' Cowan said.
The club recently began a project that creates blankets and hand-crafted toys that firefighters distribute to children who are involved in traumatic situations.
"Each fire unit now has bags of blankets, toys and other things the firefighters can give to the children.''
About the club At the club's Oct. 9 meeting, Wanda Lane, Sun City Packet columnist and Sun City resident, will present a program based on her stories that have been collected in the book, "Wrinkles in Paradise.'' The event is open to members and their guests, and to prospective buyers in the community.
At club meetings, the newest member receives a door prize, such as a plant.
For more information, contact Helen Cowan at 843-705-1280 or go to www.sewwhatclub.org.