About Happy Hands

About the Happy Hands Society

A Note from Erica

Inspiration for Happy Hands arose from several sources. Being with a dear friend and neighbor during her final months while she courageously faced cancer, conversations with my sister --a paramedic who works as a Hospice care provider-- and reading about the fictional "Occasional Knitting Society," all serendipitously aligned to create the Happy Hands Society.

In The Birth House, a novel by Ami McKay which was set in early twentieth-century Nova Scotia, a few friends would gather under the guise of knitting socks for G.I.'s as part of the World War I effort. They called themselves the "Occasional Knitting Society." Their informal gatherings were mainly an excuse to escape daily pressures for a little while and enjoy the company and camaraderie of good friends.

After reading The Birth House, I considered how our modern world has sadly devolved from community life to individual focus. Wouldn't it be wonderful, I thought, to be part of such a group as the Occasional Knitting Society, to feel a higher sense of community?

One day around that time my sister, Jeni, and I were talking about the Occasional Knitting Society, about my sister's work at Hospice, and about my friend who had recently lost her life to breast cancer. I don't recall the exact drift and flow of our meandering conversation, but somehow everything crystallized into the idea of a group of neighbors, meeting occasionally and making shawls for those in real need of comfort: specifically, Hospice patients. The name just fell into place: The Happy Hands Society.

Jeni showed me how to crochet and introduced me to the Knifty Knitter. With the help of a craft store gift card from my darling husband, a how-to book and the Internet, I learned to knit and crochet. A small group of friends and neighbors was invited. The group has been meeting weekly (and growing!) ever since.

My first shawl, knit from gorgeous blue and violet Homespun yarns, was made in honor of my lost friend, Julie. Julie was a shaman who taught the practice of centering, that is, aligning oneself with the energy of the earth and universe. I felt her presence and wisdom guiding the stitches, and so it was easy to fill every stitch with the love and appreciation I have for Julie. Creating "Julie's Centering" shawl was such a gratifying experience, I try to dedicate all my shawls to loved ones who have passed. It's my hope they will offer some measure of comfort to those following similar paths in their final seasons of life.

Our Happy Hands mission couldn't be accomplished without the help of our partner organizations, who enable our donations to Hospice patients and other needy individuals. The wonderful Pawling Resource Center is a collection point for some of our donations, and a special "thank you" goes to Director Terry Ariano. All Hospice items are distributed through our local hospice organization, Hospice Inc. of Dutchess County. We truly appreciate all that Hospice does. What a terrific organization!


Julie Anne Kimma

I'm indebted to my friend, Julie, for teaching me so much in such a short time.  I'll be forever grateful to her for the wonderful people who have come into my life because of her.  Knowing Julie certainly changed my life in many, very significant ways. 

For brilliant lessons of love and pure joy, I have gratitude deep in my heart for Tim Doughtie.  Every day I try to keep at hand Tim's example of living each of his days to the fullest, with great humor and generous heart.

And how can I thank my dear sister, Jeni, enough?  She has the extraordinary gift of knowing how to take care of people while genuinely caring for them.  I'll be forever grateful to her for all her inspiration and knowledge.  Without you, Jeni, the Happy Hands Society would just be a knitting group.




What is the Happy Hands Society?

We are a small group of friends and neighbors who meet occasionally to enjoy each other's company and create cozy, bright shawls for donating to local Hospice patients. While our favorite activity is making shawls for Hospice patients, members may bring sewing, laundry for folding, toys for mending... anything to keep hands busy and happy.

What's this "Holmes Great Bear?"

"Holmes Great Bear" is the name of the founding chapter of the Happy Hands Society. The Great Bear Swamp is the beautiful wetlands around which we live in the hamlet of Holmes.

Why shawls?

Some of us have chosen to make cozy, bright shawls for donating to local Hospice patients. Persons with serious illnesses are often in need of warmth and good cheer. What better than a cozy shawl to help give comfort? Shawls are large enough to wrap around the shoulders and also may be used as coverlets. We pour our love into every stitch, so recipients know there is someone who cares about them.  Other useful items are warm caps, foley bag and suction jar covers (pattern - 300k PDF).  Each donated shawl is bundled and tied with a satin ribbon.

How do your items get to those in need?

Most fruits of our labors are donated to local Hospice patients and other needy individuals with the help of our wonderful partners. The amazing Pawling Resource Center is a collection point for our donations. All Hospice items are distributed through our local hospice organization, Hospice Inc. of Dutchess County.

I'd like to help!

We gratefully accept donations of shawls, blankets, caps, etc.  For donated handmade items, we will provide a small, attached card for each item with your name and care instructions.  Donated items are provided to the Pawling Community Resources and Services Center and distributed through Hospice, Inc. of Dutchess County.  Also, we are always in need of the following in cheerful colors:
    satin ribbons, 1" - 2" wide for wrapping the donations; each shawl uses about 2 yards.
    inexpensive fabric (for foley bag covers and suction jars).

How else may I help?

We also accept monetary donations to cover the costs of operations (donation cards, chapter logos, web site hosting and upkeep, yarns, etc.). Note: Since we are not yet a registered 501(c)(3) organization, these donations may not be deductible.

Are my donations deductable?

For items and supplies you donate to Hospice or any other 501(c)(3)charity, the fair market value of your donated item is deductible. Supplies you purchase to make your donated item and labor to produce it contribute to its fair market value. Fair market value is defined by the IRS as, "the price [a donated item] would sell for on the open market. It is the price that would be agreed on between a willing buyer and a willing seller..."

Can I play, too?

If you are interested in joining the Happy Hands Society or starting your own chapter with a few friends, just drop us a line. We will provide all the information and materials you need for starting your own chapter. Materials include your own chapter logo and templates, which you may copy and use for printing business and donation cards, etc. A small donation to cover time and materials would be greatly appreciated, but is in no way mandatory.

What about meetings?

We try to get together informally every couple weeks at one of our members' houses. We try to vary the days and meeting times, so everyone is able to attend at least once in a while. Meetings usually last a couple hours, and we enjoy refreshments and the wonderful company of friends and neighbors while we work on our projects.

I'm all thumbs! What if I don't know how to knit or crochet?

No worries! We can show you how. There are boundless how-to resources available; see our Links page. Some of our members (and their kids, too!) like to use the Knifty Knitter for their projects. It's an inexpensive, super-easy loom knitter available from most craft stores. You'll be amazed how quickly you can turn out a shawl or scarf.