By Laura McAlister
When Roz Feigelson helped start a knitting group at Levite Jewish Community Center, she was doing it more to help herself. But five years later, she and members of the Circle of Life Knitting Society have helped countless others.
The Circle of Life meets once a week at the LJCC in Mountain Brook to knit scarves and shawls for cancer patients. Each year, it delivers roughly 1,000 scarves to area hospitals.
Now in its fifth year, the group has 55 members, many of whom belong to the LJCC and many who don’t, but it didn’t start out that large. And it didn’t start out as a way to comfort cancer patients.
It began with a phone call from Sherrie Gernfield, who at the time was the adult and senior adult program coordinator at the center, to Roz, asking her to start a knitting class.
“I lost my last daughter to cancer in 2004, and she had a 10-year-old son that I’m now raising,” Roz said. “I thought my world was coming to an end, and then I got this call from Sherrie asking me how would I like to teach a six-week knitting class.”
Roz, along with Lynette Slaughter and Carol Tuck, began teaching the session. Four other women attended the first gathering; the next time, they had a few more.
The group was still small, though, and Roz knew there had to be something else to attract more people to the sessions. That’s when they started Circle of Life Knitting Society and invited women, both experienced and beginners, to knit for a cause.
To Roz, determining that cause was easy. Not only did she lose one daughter to cancer, she lost two, in addition to a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter. Roz is also a cancer survivor, so the group began knitting for chemotherapy and radiation patients throughout the area.
“We started advertising it as ‘knitting for a cause,’” Roz said. “And all of a sudden we had 55 women here.”
While the group is mainly made up of senior citizens, all ages are accepted. Through fundraisers, they also are able to provide all the supplies for knitting. Even a few high school students have recently pitched in to help the Circle of Life with its cause.
Roz said a Mountain Brook High School student recently challenged a friend at Homewood High School to see who could collect the most knitting supplies for the group. Dani Leaf of Mountain Brook and John David Cook of Homewood placed collection boxes in their school lobbies and, combined, raised more than $150 for the knitters and collected 500 skeins of yarn.
“It was nice to be a part of a project that puts smiles on the faces of people who have gone through so much,” Dani wrote in a letter to the Circle of Life knitters.
The program does seem to put smiles on the faces of those receiving the scarves and shawls. Lynette said they receive countless letters of gratitude from cancer patients.
While they’re doing good for the cancer patients, it’s also about getting together with good friends once a week knowing that it’s for a worthwhile cause, said Joan May.
“It makes us all feel so good to do something good for someone else and see them happy,” she said.
“We’re getting as much out of it as they are,” added fellow knitter Helena Wolf.
Lynette said the group started out making just plain scarves but now creates more colorful patterns. They deliver generic scarfs to area hospitals throughout the year and have special scarves made for Christmas and October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Each item comes with a letter from the Circle of Life as well as the name of the person who knitted it.
The Circle of Life Knitting Society meets from 10 a.m. to noon each Tuesday at the LJCC. For more information on the group, contact Mindy Cohen, director of adult and senior programs at the LJCC, at 879-0411 ext. 233.