This story was a joy to report. From today's New Castle Courier-Times.
By Donna Cronk
Melody Sutherland Ruth grew up in New Castle and while her folks have since passed on and she rarely returns, she wanted to do something for her hometown.
Ruth, a Hockessin, Delaware resident, was chatting with her New Castle Chrysler High School Class of 1975 classmate, Deb Ferrell, and learned about the Guest House men’s shelter where currently 28 men reside.
Ruth decided to knit 30 hats for the men in a variety of colors out of thick yarn.
She isn’t sure how long it took to assemble the hats because due to the portable nature of knitting projects, she often takes them along wherever she goes and knits in 10- and 15-minute sessions while waiting for appointments and such. She sent the finished hats to Ferrell last week and she delivered the full box to Guest House Executive Director Bruce Aaron.
“It warms your heart ...” Aaron said of the donation. He planned to hand them out right away.
Aaron said that while the shelter gets donations of money, clothing and toiletries, these gifts were personal and touching.
“It gets a hold of your heart that somebody would have that compassion that far away,” he said. “It’s humbling.”
For the knitter, the project is inspired by her late mother, Irma Sutherland, who would now be 102 and passed away in 1999.
“My mom did a lot of charity work,” Ruth said. “I think Mom would like that (the knitted hats).”
She said her New Castle mother was known for homemade noodles that were in demand from friends. She didn’t want to be paid for them but decided that if noodle-recipients wanted to put some money in her jar, she would use it to buy coats for kids at the Christian Love Help Center.
Ruth’s father, Paul, has been gone for more than 40 years.
She said her mother didn’t have a lot of money, but she could always come up with funds to help others. The daughter’s takeaway is that it doesn’t cost a lot to be able to do something for people in homeless shelters.
“I wanted them to know that somebody took the time to make them something,” Ruth said.
Ferrell is impressed with her friend’s follow-through on the project, not merely paying it lip service as people often do.
“It was born out of her compassion for people in her hometown,” Ferrell said.
The Guest House, 1407 Walnut St., is more than five years old and has sheltered between 400 and 500 men in that time. This year alone, more than 100 have lived there.
Ruth, now retired, has worked as a special educator, group-home director and fraud analyst for a major credit card company. She has knitted for 10 years. Her hope is that her effort will inspire someone else.
"It gets a hold of your heart that somebody would have that compassion that far away. It's humbling."
Following is my preview of the Octagon House Christmas Tree Walk in Shirley, Indiana from the New Castle Courier-Times. I'll be there signing books from 4-8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1. My gratitude to organizers for the invitation.
SHIRLEY — From around 25 fully decorated Christmas trees in a variety of themes to steaming-hot homemade meals (and homemade desserts) enjoyed around farmhouse tables throughout an antique-filled setting, the Octagon House is ready to entertain the public during two upcoming weekends.
The unique home, located at 400 South Railroad St., Shirley, is open 4-8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, Nov. 30-Dec. 1 and Dec. 7-8. The actual walk is free but donations welcome to support upkeep of the historic building.
Homemade meals are served both weekends for $10 a person, and there’s a discount for children’s meals. During the first weekend, the menu includes chicken and noodles, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, homemade dessert and beverages. For the second weekend, served will be homemade vegetable soup or chili, a sandwich, dessert and beverage.
Board member Cheryl Wright said that generally around 180 people per weekend show up for the walk. “We want it to have a farmhouse feel,” she says of the two weekends. She encourages folks to sit down, eat their meals, relax and tour the trees. The board hopes the evening puts guests into the Christmas spirit.
She suggests that folks even consider gifting the evening out as a Christmas present – giving folks “a memory that they will remember.”
The home is fully furnished in antiques and is beautifully maintained. It is also available to rent out and anyone wanting information about cost and requirements may call board members Cheryl Wright at 765-737-6856, Virginia Harrell at 765-738-6736 or Dennis Westrich at 765-738-6415.
Wright says the most unusual tree this year is called “I’m a beautician, not a magician!, created by Step Ahead Family Hair Care Stylist and Owner Katrina Sturgill-Inman of Greenfield.
A variety of tree sponsors include families, businesses and even memoriums to loved ones.
The front door of the home is sponsored by the Door Store in Shirley. The entrance parlor contains a recently acquired chandelier – with eight arms – found in Nest in New Castle.
There is a massive snowman-themed tree from one woman’s lifetime collection. Cheryl and John Wright sponsor some trees upstairs in an elegant Victorian-hued bedroom. On the bed is a donated vintage mourning cape and some 1895 local historical correspondence about the Shirley-Wilkinson Railroad that was found in the old Wilkinson depot by Roger Roy and donated by Roger and Gary Roy.
Another bedroom is now also fully furnished and decorated, sponsored by the White family. Other themes include Happy New Year and an upstairs music room.
About the walk, Wright says, “Everybody seems to really enjoy it.”
One of the many specially-themed trees.
Vintage mourning cape on display in a lavishly adorned upstairs bedroom.
I’m grateful that we live in a democracy for many reasons; not the least of which is that the Holiday Police Department won’t arrive to arrest me today. Yes, I’ve broken a personal rule to which I’ve held dear for 60 years; one that many would find worthy of detaching me from my tinsel.
I have pumpkins mingling with Christmas trees; strands of Christmas lights competing with a Thanksgiving-themed candle.
Who am I?
I know that Hobby Lobby puts fully adorned trees up when it’s a consistent 90 degrees outside and my favorite mail-order stationery company unveils their Christmas cards and wrapping paper about the time the front of my house is sporting its Independence Day miniature flags. But I’ve always remained firmly in the NO CHRISTMAS BEFORE THE THANKSGIVING DRESSING IS GONE camp.
This year’s approach is a little different. I’m holding off putting the tree up until after Thanksgiving only because my spouse would grumble too much if I forged ahead with that one. But I make no promises about transforming the rest of the house before the bird is cold.
It started with yesterday’s Sunday afternoon when I found myself somewhat caught up on my to-do list. Friday I had picked up new red ribbons to replace the faded ones on the wreaths I put up each year on all our outdoor windows. So, I watched the Colts game and took my time fluffing the wreaths and changing out the ribbons. I thought of the years that in a hurry to get everything in place and move on to my other work during a busy Thanksgiving weekend I forgo the fluffing and hang the greens anyway.
So with the wreaths fluffed and be-ribboned, I went ahead and put them up. The pumpkins in their urns with autumn garlands around them then bothered me. A lot. So they were taken down too and the urns changed out with greenery that should be fine to leave up on through winter.
I decided to go ahead and re-do the wagon on the porch, adding greenery and pine cones and hang the front-door wreath. The exterior of our house is dressed for the season – umm, the Christmas one
I woke up this morning to a pretty first snow on our central Indiana landscape. It’s beautiful and makes me want to dive in and do more. The weeks ahead are busy, every weekend booked with a variety of good things. Wouldn’t it be nice to see to the decorating before it all begins?
With a blissful Monday off today, things may get real Christmassy, real fast. I’m diving in.
Why not? Tomorrow I'm doing another preview on a Christmas Walk for the newspaper and I'll come home motivated to deck the halls.
So I'm getting a jump at home. And looking forward to it. When do you put up your Christmas decorations?
When I crash-landed on Friday after a hectic week, it appeared that the weekend’s agenda was blank.
It felt heavenly.
I could finally see to what had become a full-page to-do list.
There were weekly items to complete: my Bible Study Fellowship assignments, this week in the Book of 1 Samuel; the Friday chore of grocery shopping, and, facing the music on the Weight Watchers scales (not my best week).
Then I had to turn attention to some writing-related work. I had an offer to share a space the first weekend of December at the annual Minnetrista Luminaries Walk and needed to see how that meshes with another invite to do a signing at the Octagon House Christmas Walk the same weekend.
I needed to get a check in the mail to secure the 2019 opportunity to have my books available at Warm Glow Candle at the Centerville exit off Interstate 70 and catch up on some bookkeeping on the home front.
I am still finishing a new program I’m giving Thursday to a women’s literary club, this one about how in a writing career – and in life in general – there’s always something new. I’ll also detail this new adventure of writing devotions and share a few.
Then I had a big fish to fry: Securing a 2019 health insurance plan now that Brian is on Medicare. This project takes longer than the others combined but we made progress.
I had some more frivolous things on my "hope-to-accomplish" list. I’ve lost some weight this year and have had a goal of a new winter coat. I knew what I wanted: something incredibly warm (I’m that “always-cold” person you know); something black, weatherproof, and puffy without making me look like Mrs. Michelin. I also had a size goal and didn’t quite make it. Then there’s all that winter-clothing bulk under a coat to deal with.
I am a consignment-shop junkie but nothing was showing up in my favorite haunts that came close to what I looked for. What to do?
My bestie Gay sent a photo of the interior of Macy’s and wow! It was loaded with the black coats that interested me. So I did something rare when clothes shopping. I asked Brian to go with me to pick out a winter coat. He held my jacket and purse and did some looking while I slipped on candidates, ala' Goldilocks.
I found one that I liked a lot – but didn’t love. It was knee-length and I had thought more about thigh-length. Then Brian found one I like even better, still knee-length. It’s a big, bad, WARM coat. I’m ready for snow, wind and rain – at least in the coat department.
It’s Sunday now and there’s church and a run to the library along with a pot of chili I plan to make. There’s a few things still on the to-do list but there’s a whole bunch of them marked off with blue Highlighter lines.
Yes! I call this a successful weekend.