Every stitch by thread guided through fabric at the hands of Maggie Kissner or yarn that the 82-year-old loops around a needle to form connecting stitches is done to create a keepsake for others.
“I just love helping other people,” said Kissner. She doesn’t know them and she will likely never meet them, yet she continues meticulously to create gifts for them. “I’m always for the underdog.”
While she and a group of ladies worked at sewing machines, Kissner said she feels good that she is doing something worthwhile that will benefit someone else. The women were making fabric bags to attach to four-legged walkers for holding the users’ items.
According to Coy Willis, her high school sweetheart, Kissner’s adult life has focused on charity more than anything else. Their long-time friendship started during their school days in Milton, Ind., located one-mile south of Cambridge City in Wayne County.
Kissner crochets or sews most evenings in the Shelbyville home where she has lived for the past five years, and then on Tuesdays she joins other ladies at the Life House Church at W 600N, 1550 W. Tracy Rd., in Whiteland. They spend the day making various items for patients at Community Hospital South in Greenwood.
Known as “Stitching for the Love of Others”, the ladies deliver boxes of handmade items like pillow cases, totes, baby blankets, burp cloths, layettes for infants, and walker bags to the hospital for patients every six weeks.
“I’m from Indianapolis,” said Kissner. “I worked 42 years at RCA from the time I was 18 until I was 62 years old, and until the plant was shut down and everything was moved to Mexico. When my husband died, I sold the house and moved to Shelbyville.”
It was a suggestion made by her youngest sister, Saundra Krammes, because she lives in Shelbyville. Kissner lives just a short distance from Krammes. Another move brought Kissner’s sister, Betty, right next door to Kissner. “They’re my two youngest sisters out of eight,” said Kissner. “There is one boy. We are all still living. One is 94 and one is 97. They are the two oldest and live in Richmond.”
Kissner said she learned about “Stitching for the Love of Others” through an article in The Indianapolis Star newspaper and she needed something to do. “At the time, it was meeting in the Greenwood Library, then it went to a member’s church, then it went to two other churches, now we’re at this one.”
She joined in 1999 intending to crochet with others. Kissner had been crocheting from the time she was 15 years old.
“I read out of books how to do it and taught myself,” she said. “When I ran into problems, my mom would help me because she crocheted.”
Kissner said she makes baby blankets, sweaters, hat and baby bootie ensembles, and has even made gowns for the pre-mature, deceased infants at Franciscan Hospital in Greenwood for their burial.
Crocheting keeps Kissner’s fingers flexible. “Plus, I enjoy it. I just enjoy making stuff.”
So when sewing entered into the club’s activities, Kissner had some learning to do.
“At first, I couldn’t even sew a straight seam,” she said. “I kept trying because I wanted to do it.” Kissner now does “lots of sewing of various items.”
She said she even tries to make one simple “pillowcase” dress each night in various sizes for the children in Sierra Leone, a country on the southwest coast of West Africa. It’s a charitable cause the club’s leader, Judy Davisson, learned about. A friend of hers travels to Sierra Leone often and delivers the dresses, according to Kissner. “There are only two of us that do those,” said Kissner.
Kissner also makes caps for cancer patients and for newborns. She and Willis have also taken on a new project. “We’re in the process of making (yarn, cold weather) Pacer hats,” she said. “The Pacers provided the pattern. In 2021, the Pacers are hosting the (NBA) All-Star game and everyone will get a hat.”
Donations of fabric and yarn make it possible for the members of “Stitching for the Love of Others” to help others.
“Anyone wanting to get rid of material or yarn, we’ll take it,” said Davisson.
The group welcomes newcomers, too. Contact either Kissner at 317-430-6565 or Davisson, 317-501-3794.