When Eddeane Sims watched her first YouTube crochet tutorial on a whim several years ago, she didn’t know it would eventually inspire a program that equipped children to creatively give back to seniors in the community.
She coined her after-school program The Crochet Club, and has steadily grown it throughout the past two years. Today, it brings about 50 students in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades together in six-week chunks to crochet holiday blankets and scarves for older and disabled adults in assisted living situations.
‘As a seasoned fifth grade teacher at Walt Disney Elementary (Anaheim, California), Sims had always challenged her students to see beyond the expected – and focus on the possible. It’s the difference between having a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, she said. The Crochet Club helps children develop the latter.
“We didn’t have any after-school programs, and so I wanted to create something that exposed children to new experiences outside of the classroom in ways that continually grew them and motivated them,” explained Sims. “Learning how to crochet was definitely new and most certainly not easy (especially the scarves!), but each time we met I encouraged the students to push past frustration, and practice and then practice some more.”
Many of those students are boys. Even parents.
“It’s fun to see the diversity in the club. The children are so excited about helping their community that they get their parents involved. So, I added a class for them too,” said Sims.
Last Christmas, The Crochet Club donated 50 handmade fleece blankets and 27 scarves to the SmileMakers Guild. Her goal this year is for each child to crochet one scarf for one senior each month, with the overall plan to donate the scarves to those who will be without families at Thanksgiving.
The students also crochet items for the chance to showcase them at OC Fair Imaginology, an annual education and entertainment event at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa.
“The kids love participating in the event and seeing their work celebrated. Some have won their division and earned ribbons in the Arts competition, which motivates them even more to grow their crochet skillset,” said Sims, who also has a Studio Art degree.
Club membership is free, and each year Sims writes and applies for grants to fund the materials needed for the crochet projects as well as the field trip to the OC Fair.
Her overall vision is to annually expand The Crochet Club’s impact on the senior community by continually refining the learning process, growing the volunteer staff and donations, and ultimately scaling it to other groups and schools.
But most importantly, in a society increasingly dependent on instant gratification, Sims wants each child to learn (and experience) the life lesson of perseverance.
“Whenever students tell me they’re hesitant about crocheting because ‘it’s hard,’ I tell them that yes, it’s hard, but if you have a mindset of perseverance and stick with it, the payoff will be big – and not only for them, but for their community. To be able to learn a skill, make something and then give it to somebody in need is, in a word, inspiring.”
Sims is often reminded of the club’s impact whenever former club members (now in Junior High) come back and ask what they can do for community service.
“I simply (and so proudly!) hand them some yarn and say…pull up a chair and make a scarf for a senior.”