“Her hands can remember and her mind can remember how to knit the caps, and every time she sends a box, she calls me and asks, ‘Did they get there? Did the babies get their hats?’” Bakersfield local, Paula Francis said about her mother, Barbara Whittet.
More than 230 miles away, in the desert in Southern California 82-year-old Barbara has worked her needle and yarn, carefully stitching together the tiniest of hats for dozens upon dozens of babies.
Strangers, in that she doesn’t know them personally, but a connection tied together like the stitch work in the hats.
The hats ultimately make their way to the families utilizing services as at the Bakersfield Pregnancy Center.
That connection came from her own baby, her daughter Paula, who happens to be friends with Erin Rogers, executive director of the center. The hats, simple reminders that Barbara is still mom, despite displaying her first signs of Alzheimer’s 10 years ago.
“She was always a very generous person, with her time and her talents,” Paula said.
Barbara's been donating tons of hats in large plastic bags and boxes to the Pregnancy Center since Paula moved to Kern County in 1991 after Barbara retired as an elementary teacher in La Canada.
It was in La Canada where she first put her knitting talents to good use, volunteering at an area hospital. Those talents now help keep babies warm.
“It brings her joy and it brings me an incredible amount of joy to be able to bless other people with something that my mom does,” Paula said.
As Barbara battles Alzheimer’s, Paula says that she can still recall long-term memories, but does tend to have problems with her short-term memory.
“I understand why they call it the long goodbye. Because parts of that history that you have with your parent disappears from their memory, but not from yours, so that does make it challenging,” Paula said. But I’m just so blessed that she’s still around and still talks to us and still remembers our lives."
Barbara, the 82-year-old hat maker, uses only a needle and yarn to warm the hearts of families, while still fulfilling her biggest role to her family.
“It’s kind of a little thread of hope that my mother isn’t still my mother,” Paula said.
If you’d like to help Barbara in giving back to babies in need, you can find a full list of things to donate at our 23ABC Bakersfield Baby Shower here.