Remy Partlow and Nancy LaPoint at gift bag assembly night in December.
By Richard Burnett
Like elves in Santa’s workshop, Remy Partlow and Nancy LaPoint have spent months creating gifts for some of the neediest folks in Lake County. Through the deft art of crochet, they produced scores of colorful shawls to warm the hearts of elderly people who find themselves alone at the holidays.
The crocheting friends crafted the shawls for PAWS Therapy Dogs Inc.’s annual gift bag donation to nursing homes and other facilities for the elderly. Volunteers will distribute a record 500 gift bags this year, including other items such as blankets, toiletries, puzzles, and holiday cards from the therapy pups. Many crochet enthusiasts through the years have contributed to the project.
It was a first for lifelong crocheters Partlow and LaPoint, who saw it as a labor of love that gave added meaning to the holiday season.
“It’s the dream of everyone who does crochet to see it make a difference in people’s lives,” said Partlow, a writing consultant for Beacon College, a 2019 graduate, and frequent community volunteer. “I always like to give back to the community in any way I can. This seemed like a perfect way to do that.”
“There’s a real pleasure in seeing other people show such appreciation for what we make,” said LaPoint, a community activist, yoga instructor, and retired nurse. “There’s a great satisfaction in the creative aspect of it too — of putting so much time and effort into something and seeing the project completed.”
Origin of the PAWS Connection
Their connection to PAWS began in early 2021 when LaPoint had a chance encounter with members of the well-known therapy dog nonprofit. She was holding an outdoor yoga class at the Trout Lake Nature Center in Eustis when the volunteers passed by, walking their dogs for exercise. Soon, the group joined her class — with their dogs — and LaPoint became friends with long-time PAWS volunteer Joanne Hart-Rittenhouse.
When she found out about PAWS’ gift bag project and the role crochet had played in it, LaPoint knew it was something she wanted to do: “I had collected bins and bins of yarn that I didn’t know what to do with,” she said. “So when Joanne told me how all these people had crocheted things for these gift bags, I knew exactly what I could do with that yarn.”
Months later, LaPoint met Partlow at a meeting of the Florida Native Plant Society, an environmental conservation group. LaPoint had brought her crochet work with her to the meeting and when Partlow saw it, she knew she had found a kindred spirit. They became friends and soon both were working on the shawls for PAWS’ gift bags.
For Hart-Rittenhouse, who coordinates program scheduling for PAWS, the gratitude of the people tugs at one’s heartstrings. Many of the elderly have no family at all or none that are able to visit them at the holidays, she said. The gift bags are always appreciated, especially the shawls.
“The shawls are beautiful, soft, cuddly and stylish too, with colorful, decorative patterns, made of really nice soft yarn,” she said. “It’s awesome to go into a nursing home and see people with them on. Many tell me, ‘That’s all I got for Christmas’.”