Jenny Milford has always been a giver.
The softly spoken Lawrence woman received a huge ‘‘thank you’’ from the Tuapeka Lawrence Community Company recently, in recognition of the many fundraising knitting donations she has provided during the past five years.
“I do it simply to make others happy,” Mrs Milford said.
Her fingers fly over the stitches while she works on another of her hand›knitted woollen vests for a baby.
“I just wanted to give something back to the community.’’
Mrs Milford started knitting when she was 5.
“It’s not like I was doing much else, as my early years in Timaru were spent in and out of hospital or sick in bed at home.
‘‘I watched my Mum knitting and asked her if I could learn. She and my grandmother taught me and I guess I have been doing it ever since.
‘‘I knitted my first jersey when I was 7, at primary school.”
The keen craftswoman also began a tradition of donating her work early, by knitting school jerseys for classmates when she was in high school.
“It took a couple of weeks for each one but it was fun, and gave me something to do while I was stuck sitting in bed,” she said.
When Mrs Milford and husband Rob came to Lawrence five years ago, she wanted to do something for the community.
“We love it here. It’s so peaceful, which has helped both of us improve medically.
‘‘I decided to knit baby jerseys and donated them to the [Lawrence] information centre. I said they could sell them for $10 each and split the money between themselves and the museum.’’
They soon turned into a big seller.
‘‘I started taking 20 down at a time but they sold quickly, so now I make sure there are at least 10 in stock all the time.’’
All the wool is donated, and she only uses New Zealand wool because of its warmth and natural properties.
People also began to repurpose the jerseys as hot water bottle caddies and small dog jackets.
“I make a mixture of baby vests and hot water bottle covers now.’’
Mrs Milford has also donated baby vests to every maternity and birthing centre from Invercargill to Greymouth.
Alongside her local community donations, one other donation has been close to her heart, she said.
Kind Hands, in Whangarei, is a respite care and support home for children under 6, who have a disability, are medically fragile, or technology dependent.
“I was so amazed that someone could have done this; I wished there had been places like this when I was little, because my mum struggled to raise two very sick kids in the ’60s with little outside help.
‘‘So I made a bundle of woollen baby vests and sent them up to the home.”