FORT GEORGE — This holiday season, patients at the Isabella Geriatric Center will be a lot warmer and comfortable thanks to Gloria Bloom’s knitting skills.
When the 88-year-old volunteer first started making blankets for Isabella patients in 2003, she didn’t think it would become such an important part of her knitting legacy.
Originally from Brooklyn, Bloom moved to Riverdale with her family in 1957, and she’s been knitting for families, friends — and anyone else she meets — ever since.
“Everyone always had something — baby blankets and sweaters.” Bloom said, noting that it was these projects that prompted her and her friends to start hosting group "knitzvah" events, at which they sipped coffee, ate cake and chatted away.
“We would get together at each other’s house to knit and visit each other,” she said.
Through this group of five women, Bloom started volunteering for local organizations in Washington Heights and Inwood, including the NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital and Isabella over a decade ago, she said.
Although several members from the original group have since passed away, Bloom said she visits the remaining members to drop off yarn, keep them company, and pick up finished lap blankets that they donate to Isabella patients. She does this several times a year, about every other month, depending on how many knitting projects the ladies wrap up.
Carol Ban, director of Aging in Place Programs at Isabella, said the group has knitted 500 lap blankets since 2003.
“Over the years, [the blankets] get logged in,” she said of how the center keeps track of the donations. “So that’s how we know.”
Ban added that the blankets are then divided up among Isabella residents, based on who needs the lap blankets the most.
Reverend Joseph Jenkins, 65, an Isabella resident since 2012, is one of those residents who will receive a lap blanket to keep him warm this holiday season.
"I’m excited," he said. "I go out a lot, so these are good!"
Bloom has a system for completing all the colorful projects: She selects the most affordable acrylic yarn, since it’s machine-washable, and divides each by color to see how the patterns go together.
The extent of her volunteer work even caught Bloom's son, Steve, by surprise. He didn’t realize just how much his mother did until he moved into her apartment to help her shortly after his father passed away in 2013.
“Her hands never stop,” Steve Bloom, 61, said. “She’s like a jazz musician!”
He now helps her purchase knitting supplies, pick up finished projects from the other members and makes sure she’s able to keep up with her volunteering projects.
“I already know several of the girls,” he said. “I know this is what she likes to do.”
For Bloom, her work goes beyond just the craft.
“It’s going to keep someone warm,” she said with a smile, “and that’s the most important thing.”