FOND DU LAC — Marilyn Drake spends up to seven hours a day crocheting.
"I call myself a crochet-aholic," Drake said.
The mother of two, grandmother of five, and great-grandmother of three makes hats, scarves and prayer shawls to donate to people in need.
She keeps track of her donations in a notebook, where she notes donations of 50 crocheted pieces each to two local grade schools, 200 crocheted pieces to the Salvation Army, and 200 crocheted pieces to the Fond du Lac Sheriff's Office for deputies to give out. That adds up to thousands of hats and scarves over the course of decades.
"It's overwhelming almost," Drake said. "And yet it's a very peaceful, grateful feeling that I'm able to do this for other people. I just feel as though I need to be doing something I'm not wanting to just sit."
She also makes prayer shawls, which she delivers to local hospitals. They take seven hours to make, and she made 470 this year. Drake recalled an encounter with a man at a hospital when she was delivering the shawls.
"I went up to the intensive care unit came back down and as I'm going out, he's coming back in that he walked up to me and he says, 'Are you the prayer shawl lady?' and I said, 'Yes.' He said 'I have to thank you. My wife got one,'" Drake said. "I didn't ask, and I know I shouldn't have asked if she was still using it."
At the Salvation Army, Calixta, a local mom of three, was picking up coats, hats and other winter gear for her daughters. She found one handmade hat that is purple, one of her daughter's favorite colors.
"This is very pretty! I think they will like this," she said.
Salvation Army staff said they’ve seen dozens of families like Calixta’s enjoying the donations.
"I saw a lot of them be very grateful," social work intern Sydney Johnson said. "That's for sure. I had a lot of "thank you's" for families and from clients in general."
Johnson said she saw dozens of children excited to get new warm gear for the approaching Wisconsin winter.
"As a kid, I came from a family that didn't always have everything," Johnson said. "So getting to see kids that had the same personalities as me, and didn't always get the same things as me, get something that... was hard for me to get... that was really cool for me."
Drake said she encourages everyone to use their hobbies to help their communities.
"I'm just touching the tip of the iceberg with what I'm doing," Drake said.