May 24, 2018
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95-year-old midcoast knitter didn’t know whether kids liked the mittens she donated — then she got a giant thank-you

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Staff

KNOX, Maine — Coral Furrow, 95, can’t walk very fast, but that hasn’t slowed her down from knitting up a storm of mittens and goodwill in her Knox living room.

The nonagenarian — “I’m almost 96,” she said with enthusiasm — recently donated more than 60 pairs of mittens she knitted over the past year to Waldo County children in need. The mittens, all knitted with different colors and patterns, were distributed through the Waldo County nonprofit organization called People For People. The all-volunteer organization, founded 29 years ago, provides Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for local people who need help.

“I’m astounded when I come across acts of pure kindness, care and concern from individuals perhaps the least likely to be in a position of giving,” Paul Garelli, the chairman of the charity group, said recently of Furrow’s generosity. “Inspiration turns up in the most unlikely of places.”

But the practical Furrow, who lives on a fixed income, doesn’t make a big deal of her knitted donation. She said that her mother taught her to knit when she was a girl and she can make almost anything. Last year, she made about 70 pairs from her armchair, but a recent spell of high blood pressure caused her to take a two-month break from the needles.

“I like to keep my hands flexible,” Furrow, the holder of the Boston Post Cane for Knox, said. “You use it or you lose it, when you get to be my age.”

She said that Garelli is her neighbor, and “fell in love” with her mittens as soon as he saw them.

“It surprised me. I’m used to knitting and not having people appreciate what I do,” she said.

Last year, in fact, she was discouraged after she made an anonymous donation of those 70 pairs of mittens to a box outside of the Belfast Hannaford’s. She didn’t know if kids liked them. But this year, that changed when Garelli brought her a giant, multi-page thank-you note from some of the Waldo County children who received her mittens. The note thanked her for helping them keep their hands warm and featured row after row of colorful, tiny handprints.

“I was delighted with it,” Furrow said of the card, adding that she can use the handprints as patterns for more mittens.

She said that her family members and other people often give her yarn in different colors. She prefers “non-girlish” shades, so that boys and girls alike can enjoy their mittens. Furrow, who had seven children with her late husband, Walter, said that she’s heard from her daughter that some children go to school without coats, hats or mittens. She would like to make scarves and hats, but she said that those take nearly a skein apiece and she can’t afford it. Furrow lives on savings from the handcrafted quilts she sold in her younger years to customers in nearly every state in the nation.

In addition to knitting, she keeps busy with cooking for herself, doing her laundry and reading. She lives alone, but her daughter checks in on her daily, she said.

“As long as I can, I’m going to stay here,” she said of the house she and her husband built in the 1940s.

To help support People For People’s charitable acts, please send donations to People For People, P.O. Box 1, Thorndike, ME 04986.

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