Knitting for newborns

Maxine Colyer has been knitting since World War I.

About 20 years ago, the Hollidaysburg woman who turns 102 on Tuesday, started making baby hats to donate to then Altoona Hospital.

She’s still at it today.

“I hurt my right hand a couple of months ago and couldn’t knit for about a month, but I am back knitting now. I am getting back into my groove,” Colyer said. “I just do it to keep busy. I just like to knit, so I keep on doing it.”

Since 1994, Colyer has spent more than 6,300 hours making the hats and has donated more than 1,250 to the hospital, said Debbie McClellan, UPMC Altoona manager of volunteer services.

Colyer is one of the many volunteers who donate the baby hats to the hospital’s maternity department. More than 900 have been donated so far this year.

“Our knitting volunteers create a very nice selection of beautiful pastel colored hats, but they go above and beyond with imaginative and colorful designs for special occasions, holidays, notable dates and seasonal themes,” McClellan said.

Parents of newborns appreciate the effort.

“Parents appreciate the time and effort that is required in making the newborn hats. The hats do serve a purpose as an infant may lose body heat, and the hat helps keep his or her temperature stable. Parents also like to choose a certain color or design as we may have several choices depending on which volunteers are making them,” said Pam O’Donnell, nurse manager of the maternity and nursery department.

“The parents are very appreciative. A lot of times if they don’t like the color, they can trade and get a color they like. We just put a hat in each crib. They can choose and get what they want,” said Kathy Bost, a registered nurse in the maternity and nursery department.

Kathy Loose of Altoona has been making and donating the baby hats for about five years.

“It is a way to do something for the community, and it is fun. I do the seasonal hats; the people just love them,” Loose said.

“For Valentines Day, I make a white hat with a red heart,” Loose said. “For Easter, I have a plain one with bunny ears on it. I make a Frankenstein hat for the boys at Halloween, pumpkin hats for fall and Thanksgiving, and I also make Christmas hats. There are all kinds you can do.”

Emily Jo Donlan, daughter of Robert and Brigitte Donlan, received two hats made by Loose – one with flowers and another a witch hat – after she was born Oct. 2 at UPMC Altoona.

“I think this is a nice gesture. It was cool. I never expected a Halloween hat. It was a nice surprise,” Brigitte Donlan said.

A group called the Presbyterian Village Knitters and Crocheters of Hollidaysburg started donating baby hats this summer.

“Pastor Bill Zimmerman, the chaplain here, gave us some suggestions, and this was one of his ideas. It is very gratifying to be able to help families who may not have blankets and hats of their own. Some babies go home with hardly anything,” said coordinator Donna Shaw. “It makes us feel good to be able to provide these things for them.”