Knitting for the kids

By Mike Heine/The Week

(Published October. 5, 2006, 5:00 p.m.)

With two needles sweeping and looping in a blur, a wool scarf quickly grows longer by the second.

This woman can knit faster than a Singer sewing machine. And itıs a good thing, too. Jutta Rupe has a lot of work lined up in front of her every year.

For the past 29 years, Rupe, 65, from Sugar Creek, has been making presents for the youngest students at Lakeland School, a school in Walworth County for children with disabilities.

Sheıs knitted and crocheted scarves, mittens, lap blankets and caps and stitched sweatshirts, backpacks and more.

But thatıs not all. In addition to the homemade goods Rupe creates, she also gives each of the schoolıs primary students a pair of socks filled with fruit and candy and a new stuffed toy.

The children receive the gifts at a special gathering a few days before Christmas. Itıs so special, even Santa Claus makes an appearance.

But why volunteer for something so elaborate and so time-consuming? Even with her fast fingers, knitting 75 or so gifts each year is a pretty big challenge.

"I am always so speechless," Rupe said of her feelings after the kids get their presents. "You should see the excitement in these kids.

"You have to see it. Once you see the party and these kids ... Thatıs why I keep coming back."

This year, Rupe is making scarves for the students, who are about ages 4 to 8.

"No two are alike," the German native said while deftly knitting a scarf in her living room. "I feel like each one has to have its own individuality. Iım probably getting carried away."

The girls get pastel colors or pinks and purples woven throughout their gifts, and the ends have more fluff and frills. The boys will get the darker, more manly colors, she says.

"I really try to make it really nice for the kids; something that I would want to make for my kids," said Rupe, who has two granddaughters.

After the Christmas party cleanup is over, Rupe starts planning for the next yearıs project.

Sheıs constantly on the lookout for deals on yarn. Sometimes she finds it at rummage sales or people who find it lying around the house will give it to her. Many times the costs come out of her own pocket.

"The party costs me around $700, and Iım footing the bill," she said. "But Iım getting all kinds of good donations from families."

Rupe knits and crochets whenever she can. Her work as a hospice caregiver allows her time to knit in the patientsı homes, but only if she has permission from the family.

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed.

"Our students donıt always have a good Christmas," said Jane Beveridge, a primary level teacher. "She makes that particular day more special for them.

"Most of the kids, they just light up" at the party.

Rupe has been a fixture at the school since her foster son graduated from Lakeland 33 years ago. She started knitting gifts for the kids soon after that when she noticed some of the students were without socks in winter. She continues the sock-giving tradition as a reminder of what she saw.

"I donıt know how someone can be that good just because, but she is," speech language therapist Sandy Kraayeveld said. "Itıs a genuine love."

"She goes around and hugs the kids like theyıre her own grandchildren," Beveridge added.

The hugs and the gifts will keep on coming, Rupe promised.

"Iıll keep going. As long as I can walk or crawl, Iıll knit and sew."





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