Knitters from the Tapestry Arbutus Walk independent living residence in the Kitsilano neighbourhood of Vancouver have sent a large box of toques to Twain Sullivan. (L-R) Barb H., Jean H. who is the oldest member of the group at 104 years old, Julie J., Kathleen B., Sue P., Marjery W. and Peggy S. (photo courtesy Tapestry Arbutus Walk)

Knitters from the Tapestry Arbutus Walk independent living residence in the Kitsilano neighbourhood of Vancouver have sent a large box of toques to Twain Sullivan. (L-R) Barb H., Jean H. who is the oldest member of the group at 104 years old, Julie J., Kathleen B., Sue P., Marjery W. and Peggy S. (photo courtesy Tapestry Arbutus Walk)

Toques from Vancouver warm students’ heads

This is the second year Twain Sullivan has received a shipment

For the second year in a row, a huge box of toques has arrived at Twain Sullivan Elementary, meant for students in need of something warm for the winter months.

And this year’s box of hand-knitted 50 toques, along with purchased socks and gloves, comes courtesy of residents of Tapestry Arbutus Walk, an independent living residence located in the Kitsilano neighbourhood of Vancouver.

Approximately 15 residents, all of whom are over 85 with one who is 104, spent up until the end of October knitting the colourful headgear, says Suzanne Summersgill, the wellness director at the residence.

“I think this year it was 170 (toques),” she said. “I was just blown away.”

“Some of the residents gather as a group while others will knit in their rooms,” Summersgill added.

Twain Sullivan is just one of 22 northern B.C. schools this year to receive a box of toques from Toques for Kids, a collection of volunteers organized through Jean Lewandowski, a Vancouver resident who felt there was a need to be met in the northern part of the province.

As it is, Toques for Kids grew out of a Vancouver knitting effort started by Lewandowski to supply tiny hand-knit toques to Sheway, a support program for pregnant moms and newborns.

One of the Sheway participants mentioned a niece in Dawson Creek saying there was a much greater need for children in northern B.C. for toques because of the colder winters, Lewandowski said.

“So I called a school there and that’s how it started,” she said.

The knitting for northern schools has been going on for three years and the number of schools receiving toques has grown from the first year when four schools received boxes.

Summersgill said Tapestry Arbutus Walk residents were no strangers to knitting and other crafts but that for years the end product had mostly been sold to residents and families at craft shows.

“No one else really saw their work and they started looking at how they could donate,” she said. “They couldn’t go to hospitals because of COVID and then this came up.”

Residents also chipped in when it came to paying to ship the boxes to the various schools.

“What we did was organize a walk to the schools using a map of northern B.C.,” said Summersgill of the representative journeys to raise money.

Walkers then made donations, resulting in approximately $1,000 being raised to pay shipping costs.

Lewandowski, a retired director of information technology for private schools, said she’d like to send toques to 10 more northern schools this year but has run out of money for shipping them.

“It’s at least $35 and Canada Post has given us a discount of 10 per cent,” she said.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, a private Catholic school in Kitsilano, is now raising money to help with shipping costs.

Twain Sullivan’s toques have been added to an inventory of coats, socks, underwear and t-shirts available for its students.

School vice principal Scott Richmond said they will be distributed to students who may not have headgear or warm enough headgear.

“This is especially important for our vulnerable students,” said Richmond.

He described the school’s inventory of available clothing as a library in that some items, such as coats, are meant to be borrowed while other items such as socks and underwear need not be returned.

“All this goes along with our breakfast and lunch programs which are at no charge,” said Richmond.

“When you think about schools nowadays, you realize they now go beyond learning itself,” he said.

“Things like nutrition, sleep — it all goes into the conditions that provide for learning success.”

Those wanting to learn more about Toques for Kids can visit www.toquesforkids.ca