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Warm hearts, warmer heads

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Local group honors American troops with hand-knitted helmet warmers

By Carol A. Clark

Some may be for and some may be against war, but those opinions aren’t shared by a knitting group that gathers weekly in Tsikumu Village. The 17 women encompass a diverse mix of religions, political beliefs and professional lives from explosives expert to schoolteacher.

What’s important is the comfort of American soldiers. To that end, the group took on a new mission recently to hand-knit helmet warmers for the troops serving on the freezing front lines overseas.

The idea materialized from the impact White Rock resident Jeanne Bridge felt after she saw the movie “Brothers” at the Reel Deal Theater in December.

“Whether you believe in the war or not — the true human cost is overwhelming,” Bridge said during a recent knitting session. She saw the need for helmet warmers online and the group enthusiastically embraced the call, she said.

The group has knitted a dozen helmet warmers so far. They fit under military helmets and keep soldier’s heads and faces warm.

“An expert knitter can complete one warmer about every five hours. A novice probably completes one every eight to 10 hours,” said expert knitter Stephanie Hagelberg who opens her home each week to the group.

Hagelberg works at Los Alamos National Laboratory in a program assisting soldiers heading overseas. She started Snowflake Cottage Industries 14 years ago as a way to relax after work. The company provides knitting and tie-dye classes and kits and carries yarn and knitting supplies.

The local group’s helmet warmers, which are made of 100 percent American wool, will be shipped through the Citizen Sam organization. There are currently some 200,000 troops in overseas theaters where they are subjected to sub-zero wind chills during the winter and extreme heat in the summer, according to the Web site www.citizensam.org.  Citizen Sam will need neck coolers for the troops this summer and the local knitting group, which formed four years ago, intends to work in that effort as well, Bridge said, using donated muslin lined with cooling beads.

Members dedicated to knitting for the troops along with Hagelberg and Bridge include Cindy Butler, Sue Kinkead, Maureen Mahoney-Barraclough, Cookie Halsted, Brenda Dingus, Elaine Buck, Cheryl Lucero, Shannon Trujillo, Marcy Kupchella, Kathleen Walsh, Elaine Buck, Shannon Harms, Joani Cannon, Kay Bolivar, Jane Lataille and Kathy Lao.

Knitters and those willing to learn are invited to join the effort of making both helmet warmers and neck coolers for the troops. Anyone interested should contact Hagelberg at snowflake@cybermesa.com.