Touch of Love

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Noblesville resident May Cook still volunteering at 101

By Navar Watson

Noblesville’s May Cook has known how to crochet for about 95 years. Turning 101 years old Aug. 12, she still doesn’t get tired of it.

“Some people like to just sit down and smoke a cigarette,” Cook said, “but I don’t. I crochet.”

For almost nine years she’s crocheted blankets for patients at Riverview Hospital through A Touch of Love, a program founded by Jerri Barnes, also of Noblesville. Despite some injuries and surgery, she continues to crochet today.

The idea for A Touch of Love came in 2005, shortly after Riverview built its new, state-of-the-art maternity center. Barnes and her friends wanted to make blankets for the newborns, especially since many parents were coming in without funds or insurance.

Initially funding itself, A Touch of Love now receives money from the Women of Vision grant program, run through the Riverview Health Foundation. The program also has expanded, benefiting patients in the cancer and rehab centers too.

“I’ve had wonderful response,” Barnes said. “I have had probably some of the most moving thank-you notes that you’ll ever see.”

The program, comprised solely of volunteers, produces “well over a thousand” blankets per year, Barnes said. Cook has delivered hundreds in her time.

A Hamilton County resident since she was 6, May Cook retired as Noblesville clerk-treasurer when she was 70. Prior to staying at the Prairie Lakes Health Campus, she lived in the same house on Grant Street for 77 years.

Cook is a member and former president of the Senior Citizens Organization and claims that she works harder now volunteering than for what she got paid to do.

Cook decided to get involved with A Touch of Love after Barnes came and spoke to members of Senior Citizens. Her aunt taught her how to crochet when she was about 6 years old.

“She will roll out a blanket that’s flawless,” Barnes said. “I’m not kidding. You look at it, and it’s just priceless … I’m blessed to have her.”

Cook said she never likes to brag about herself but admitted she “did send some nice things to them.” Sometimes she would send up to seven blankets at a time.

She denied never making a mistake, though she is a perfectionist.

“If I do a job, I want it done right. If the cake’s not good, I throw it out to the dog,” Cook said. She then paused and smirked. “I don’t have a dog.”

Barnes said she has about 300 women like Cook. She never expected the program to be so productive.

The program is large enough now that every baby is able to receive a blanket, Amy Gardner, Department Manager for the Maternity Center at Riverview, said. She said the blankets serve as a keepsake for the family.

“We appreciate it [and]we know our patients appreciate it,” Gardner said. “The blankets are beautiful. There are no two that are alike.”

A Touch of Love is also a “lifesaver” for older women, Barnes said, who are often confined to their homes without anything to do.

Women often approach Barnes saying they wish they had an activity for their mothers to do in their old age. A Touch of Love fulfills this wish, and many ladies continue to give until they can’t anymore.

“I have been given back various items from people that was their last thing they ever did,” Barnes said. “(It’s) very emotional for me sometimes.”

Cook’s daughter-in-law, Verona Cook, finds her mother-in-law an inspiration.

“It has been amazing that with her poor eyesight she can just do it,” she said. “I’m inspired by her ability to (stay) strong and do a lot of things.”

Cook cited her active lifestyle as the primary cause for living a long life.

“I’ve always worked hard. Been busy, I think that’s one reason,” she said. “I don’t smoke, and I don’t drink, and I haven’t started them yet, but I might take them up. I don’t know.”

She said more people today are living to a hundred. She thinks care facilities like Prairie Lakes, as well as better medicines and doctors, are ensuring longer lives.

About six years ago, Cook suffered a hip injury, limiting her mobility to the use of a walker. Her left eye is “completely gone” and her right eye is recovering from a cataract surgery.

“It’s kind of slowed me down on my crocheting, but I must get started,” she said. “I’ll be all right. Just getting at it.”

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