EDMOND — Richard Newville sits in the lobby of Touchmark at Coffee Creek Retirement Center and crochets baby hats like they’re going out of style. A miniature chalkboard to his left reads “1,155.”
“After this one it will be 1,156,” he said as he crocheted a multicolored hat with a tool kit he says is affordable and available at grocery and craft stores.
The former business owner and oil industry employee is retired with two grown children. He lives with his wife, Margaret, at the north Edmond retirement center. He enjoys reading, watching baseball and crocheting hats for babies and toddlers who visit Infant Crisis Services in Oklahoma City.
Newville, 66, became familiar with Infant Crisis Services through Westminster Presbyterian Church, where the organization originated.
After a friend showed him the hats he was crocheting for soldiers in Afghanistan, Newville decided to take on the hobby and crochet caps for children.
“At first I was nervous, imagining what people would think of a grown man crocheting. I thought people would think I was a sissy. But then I remembered Roosevelt Grier, and some of my fear was taken away,” Newville said, referring to the former NFL defensive tackle.
“I thought if this giant of a man could do it, so could I.”
Newville said crocheting is a stress reliever and also helps him maintain his dexterity.
Inspired to help
Inspired by his favorite book, “The Purpose-Driven Life” by Rick Warren, Newville felt the desire to help others.
“No one should go without food and clothes and their basic needs. Especially not children. I love to see their reaction when they learn that they get to pick out a hat to take home.”
Mike Farris, founder and executive director of Infant Crisis Services, started the organization in 1984 as a Sunday school project at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City.
The nonprofit organization provides food, formula, diapers and other essential items to babies and toddlers whose families have experienced trauma or financial loss due to such circumstances as loss of a loved one, divorce, sudden unemployment or natural disaster.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 85 percent of brain development occurs during the first three years of life. Infant Crisis Services reports that one in four babies in Oklahoma lives in poverty, and these children often are deprived of basic needs at a critical stage in their lives. Such babies have a moderate to high risk for developmental delay.
Volunteers assist children
Amy Spielberger, public relations coordinator for Infant Crisis Services, said its 2,249 volunteers saved the organization $327,908 in operating costs last year.
“Our volunteers make a big difference, it’s pretty amazing,” she said.
Spielberger said employees and volunteers save Newville’s hats throughout the year and put them on a “warmth tree” every Christmas.
The warmth tree is a Christmas tree decorated with donated clothing that will keep children warm in the winter. Every year from November to January, parents can choose an outfit for each of their children.
Spielberger said Newville’s hats are always a favorite of moms and babies alike.
“Our moms love anything handmade. They feel like they’re getting more than just a hat; they’re getting something from someone’s home. It’s personal,” she said.
To learn more about Infant Crisis Services or to become a volunteer, to go www.infantcrisis.org.