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Volunteers have fun making crafts for senior citizen center

By Victoria Advocate
June 26, 2013 at 1:26 a.m.
Updated June 27, 2013 at 1:27 a.m.

Anna Wagner, left, 73, shares a laugh with Dorothy Kalmus, center, 72, and Trini Ramos, 66, while the three work on a quilt during a meeting of the Quilters and Crafters group at the Victoria Senior Citizens Center. Kalmus and Ramos once worked together as nurses, and Wagner has known Kalmus since they were in fourth grade. "We socialize and yet we benefit the center," volunteer quilter Mary Kliem said.

Some people craft for fun. Some craft for profit. In the age of the Internet, the latter has grown increasingly easy; online handmade marketplace Etsy now has more than 800,000 sellers.

On Murray Street in Victoria, however, a group of women are crafting for a different purpose: to support the livelihood of the Victoria Senior Citizens Center.

Mary Kliem, 80, has volunteered at the center for 17 years. Every Wednesday between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., she and several other women in the Quilters and Crafters group, ranging in age from their early 60s to 92, get together to make quilts, boxes, kitchen items, dolls, and a variety of other products. They then sell the items in the center's Jubilee Store. All proceeds from the store go toward covering the center's operational costs, including insurance and gas for its fleet of vans, as well as wages for cooks, janitors and supervisors. Each year, Kliem said, "We hope to raise around $10,000."

All cloth and other materials for crafts come to the center through donations. When the store rooms fill up, Kliem said, they hold fund raisers to sell the surplus items.

The most recent fund raiser brought in roughly $1,700, Kliem said.

Besides raising money for the Senior Citizens Center, the Quilters and Crafters group gives seniors a place to talk and laugh together. Quilters Dorothy Kalmus, 72, and Trini Ramos, 66, are former nurses who know each other from work. Kalmus and Anna Wagner, 73, have been friends since the fourth grade.

Whether they have been making crafts at the center for 20 years, like 82-year-old Esther Johnson, or are visiting the group for the first time, like one woman at this week's meeting, quilters know that fun is on the agenda as much as anything else.

"We're all volunteers - we don't get anything," Kliem says. "We come and socialize, and talk, and visit... That's one of the purposes of it." She said many seniors come to the center five days a week, to take advantage of the numerous activities offered, such as movie screenings and Wii bowling.

"That's our purpose, to give people a place to come and play dominoes, cards, whatever they want to do during the week," Kliem said.

What most of the Quilters and Crafters want to do, of course, is keep making crafts.

"I'm not as fast as I used to be," said 86-year-old Mary Mlcak, as she watched the other women guide their needles through a quilt.

"I hope when I'm 86 I can still quilt," countered Ramos, laughing.

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