LEWISTON — The group of women sat around the conference table in Room B of The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing, laughing like sisters.

Bright sunlight streamed through the fifth-floor windows with a sweeping view of the city. Knitting needles clicked and crochet hooks bobbed up and down, making a steady beat.

The women make up the Thursday afternoon knitting group at the center, providing their talents to create comforts for those in need.

“There is a Wednesday evening group, too,” said Rhonda Washburn of Auburn, the baby of the bunch at 53. “Some go to both, but many started coming to this group because we don’t drive at night.”

All of the women have been affected by cancer. Marjorie Clifford, 73, of Lewiston lost a daughter. Pat White, also 73, of Greene lost a son. Jeanette MacDonald, 68, of Poland lost a husband and a stepchild. And it goes on and on around the table, the women listing their loved ones and friends they have lost to the disease.

“Do you know of a person who hasn’t been affected by cancer?” White asked.

They work on whatever project they want. Some make “grumpy dolls,” a squishy stress doll that can be squeezed as hard as needed. Others make lap robes, hats and shawls.

“It means a lot to see someone holding something you made as they’re going through treatment,” MacDonald said as she taught fellow knitter Karen Hayes, 74, of Greene how to crochet.

Not only are they helping cancer patients find warmth and comfort, but they are a support for each other as well.

They talk about their days and share memories. They teach each other new patterns and stitches. They bring books they think another might enjoy.

“We’re always looking for new people,” Washburn said. “We have plenty of donated yarn and needles for anyone who wants to join.”

“We have a good time,” White said. “We’re all just a little bit off-center.”


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