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One apron at a time: Nederland senior gives back through knitting

By Lorenzo Salinas



NEDERLAND — Nederland’s senior citizens know the truth of the expression, “It’s better to give than to receive.”

Nancy Bernard is a Nederland native who spends much of her time at the B.A. “Booty” Ritter Senior Citizens Center on Boston Avenue. She socializes with other senior citizens and visits with staff; however, she also knits. A lot.

The 83-year-old woman has personally made or contributed to the completion of more than 50 kitchen aprons and a dozen Bohemian aprons, all from the comfort of the center’s “quilt room.”

“I never thought aprons would take off,” Bernard said.

Surrounded by the colorful fruits of her labor, Bernard has a long table covered with different patterned Bohemian aprons, all in various states of completion.

The whole enterprise started with a visitor from the nutrition center commenting on how cute the kitchen aprons were. She wondered if the seniors could make some for her.

Before anyone realized it, orders for their aprons had multiplied and their customer base grew. Bohemian aprons seemed to be the next logical step.

“I saw this apron, a Bohemian apron, in a catalog and thought I’m going to make that,” Bernard said.

She was working on her 13th apron Tuesday.

The hobby/enterprise Bernard engages in is part of a larger community effort in which many seniors at the center participate.

“Everything is donated. We don’t buy anything,” Bernard said. “Any money that comes in from (this) goes to the quilt room, coffee, treats, cookies and stuff. It all stays right here in the center.”

The products seniors like Bernard makes go toward the community.

“We do other service projects,” she said. “The ladies make hats for cancer patients and the (Port Arthur International) Seafarers’ Center… We make quilts for the homeless.”

Bernard said many of the seniors do such projects as a way of keeping active in the community.

“We’re old, and there’s a lot of stuff we can’t do but we can give back to the community,” Bernard said. “We just want to always do something to help others.”

Center Director Diane LaPoint agreed that it was in part to feel useful, but more importantly to be part of a community.

“This age we want to still be needed,” LaPoint said. “We have a lot of talent to offer the community.”

The more communal approach of engaging with others started eight years ago when seniors formed their own team for Relay for Life.

Seniors crocheted and knitted hats for individuals who had cancer. LaPoint said all the hats were free of charge.

“The name of our team was ‘Seniors Rocking for a Cure,’” LaPoint said. “They chose that name because many seniors couldn’t walk around; so they got their rocking chairs, sat in them and rocked.”

LaPoint echoed Bernard in the several ways the center continues to give to the community: Blankets, hats and other unique crafts.

“So, if you have a need, if we can help you, we’ll try to do it,” LaPoint said.

The “Booty” Center is also a hub for other organizations or officials to get involved from Nederland High School students to Lamar University’s school of nursing to the city of Nederland’s city manager.

“City (manager) Chris Duque has delivered Meals on Wheels,” LaPoint said.

The center has programs and services intended to feed seniors and keep their minds active.

“It’s very important we’re here,” LaPoint said. “The more active we stay, the more active they stay.”

The Nederland B.A. “Booty” Ritter Senior Citizens Center is open Monday through Friday on 914 Boston Ave. For more information, call 409-727-5230.