Laughter is the first thing you notice when you step into a Needlewielders gathering at Tempe’s Pyle Adult Recreation Center. You feel instantly at home.
Started by the City of Tempe in 1974, the Needlewielders are now more than 80 members strong. This group of ladies (and one man) meet twice a week to socialize while quilting, crocheting, or knitting. They range in age from 50 to 97. Most have been part of the group for years.
“I come for therapy,” said member and crocheter Marilyn Clever. “It’s wonderful to come here every week and leave smiling.”
“I popped into the Pyle Center one day and found this group,” said retired Air Force veteran Kate Kuchay. “It’s an opportunity to get to know people better. I love it.”
But fellowship is only part of the Needlewielders’ draw and charm. This is also a group of philanthropists, using their talents and skills to help those in need.
“This is the most unselfish group I’ve ever met in my life,” said current Needlewielders president Mary Lou Delvecchio. “We contribute to over 30 organizations in Tempe and surrounding areas.”
The Needlewielders make preemie hats, blankets and stuffed animals for kids in hospitals and Head Start schools. They make blankets, quilts and afghans for adults and children and have designed an ingenious fidget bib for people with Alzheimer’s. They make helmet liners for the armed forces and toys and pads for pets. And they donate it all. They even sent an array of sewing and quilting items to a Houston Quilters Guild that lost everything in the hurricane.
“We can use our gifts and skills to produce something to benefit others,” said Lichuam (Roxanne) Beasley, an immigrant and missionary from Taiwan. “It makes us feel useful and it’s very joyful.”
All the materials the group uses to create their masterpieces are donated by community members, including tools, equipment, fabric and yarn. It’s all done by word-of-mouth. Every October the group participates in the Pyle Arts and Crafts Boutique with the proceeds going to local charities chosen by a group vote.
“The annual craft boutique is an incredible display of this group’s talent” said Tempe employee and Needlwielders liaison Christy Summers. “You’ll find handmade items ranging from microwave bowls to quilts, afghans and baby layettes, holiday items to pet and baby toys. It’s the perfect way to shop for a good cause.”
The group will present the cash donations to their chosen charities this month.
I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have the Needlewielders to come to,” said quilter and self-proclaimed talker Martha Kasapis. “Everyone pitches in when there is a need.”
For more information and to see all of the Pyle Center’s activities, visit www.tempe.gov/pyle.