After her friend told her about the “bitter cold” winters troops were enduring in Afghanistan, Charlotte Baker felt called to help.
She started knitting helmet liners, similar to ski masks, to keep the troops faces warm.
For more than seven years, Baker and her sister Virginia Jones, both of Gainesville, have spent their free time knitting the brown helmet liners. They also sew neck coolers for the troops to help them stay cool in the summer.
Jones said since they don’t have to go to work, they just consider making the items their full-time jobs.
In the summer, the sisters focus on making as many helmet liners as they can for soldiers. They’ve made about 1,500 over the years. If the women work quickly, they can turn two skeins of yarn into one complete knitted liner every day.
“It takes 10 hours to make one,” Baker said. “You can divide it anyway you want to, but when you get through you’ve spent 10 hours.”
Baker said at the rate they work, it costs about $200 every three months to purchase enough yarn.
During the winter, the sisters switch gears and start getting ready to relieve the summer heat by sewing together fabric neck coolers. When they finish about 20 of each item, they’ll pack them in a box along with other supplies troops may need, like soaps, snacks and clean socks.
With help from their churches, Westminster Presbyterian Church and Corinth Baptist Church in Gainesville, the sisters have sent more than 75 care packages to troops. The sisters said their churches have provided valuable support in a number of ways.
Baker, who attends Westminster Presbyterian Church, said her church has been helpful in donating supplies and recently agreed to purchase the yarn she needs to make more helmet liners. Jones said her Sunday school class at Corinth Baptist Church in Gainesville has been providing postage for the packages, which costs around $15 each to ship.
“It can get expensive,” Jones said. “But if you consider what the boys are doing for us, it’s little that we can do for them. I’m just glad we can do it.”
Through the care packages, the sisters and their churches have ministered to more than 5,700 soldiers. The women often receive letters thanking them, which only encourages them to keep at it.
“It makes me feel good thinking I can make it a little bit warmer for them out there,” Baker said. “They said it gets so bitter cold and the wind is bad. They really do appreciate them. I’m just glad to be able to help.”
Jones is moving to Nevada to be closer to her son but plans to continue making the items for the troops.
“I’m sure we’ve only been a drop in the bucket compared to the (number of) guys over there,” Jones said. “If they weren’t over there, what would we be doing here? I’d like to see them home.”
“Oh yeah,” Baker said, shaking her head in agreement as she resumed knitting.