‘It’s wonderful’: At 93-years-old, Rochester-area woman spends her time giving back to others

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The pandemic has taught us many things, whether it’s the significance of family, the importance of supporting small businesses, or the thrill of finding a new hobby. 

But for Jean Ellinwood of North Chili, this has been a time to grow her love of giving back. 

She’s a widow and mother of five, with a desire to give to others. 

Just this week, Ellinwood finished knitting her 92nd hat to donate to local organizations, like Open Door Mission.

The 93-year-old has been knitting since she was 12. She learned the craft from her own mother and grandmother. 

“I can’t sit and not do anything, and I feel like if I’m knitting, I’m using up my yarn that I have too much of. And it’s making something for somebody else to make them happy,” Ellinwood said. 

Making a hat takes Ellinwood about four and half hours, and inside each one is a special message. 

“I tried to think of something that would be meaningful and I just happen to think, ‘Lord bless me today.’ So I went online and I was able to get these little labels, there’s a little dove on them, and under printing that says, ‘Lord bless me today,’” Ellinwood said. 

She sews one of those labels in each hat as a reminder to those who put it on. 

“If they see that as they put it on, they’re gonna say it to themselves. And hopefully it will mean something to each one of them as they put the hat on and know that they are blessed today,” Ellinwood said. 

Ellinwood not only makes hats, but also scarves, quilts, and blankets. She donates the items to hospitals, homeless shelters, women’s shelters, and police departments. 

“They often keep them in their cars so that in case of an accident, they’d have a little something to wrap up the little kids into just quiet them down,” she said. 

And that’s not all. Ellinwood also makes greeting cards for those who may not get to leave their homes. 

“I have about 40 people that I make a card for. We were giving them out every month, but postage has gone up so we don’t do it quite that often. But these are all elderly people that are shut in or sick or whatever, so I make a card and mail them out every couple months,” Ellinwood said. 

Ellinwood says she has enough in her own life, so she likes to spend her time giving to others who may be in need. Her efforts, inspiring others, including her grandson. 

“I just think it’s wonderful. I think I’m hoping that I get her genes, right? So that 93, not only am I still moving around, but I’m able to be an active participant in society and creating good things for people,” said Rich Tyson, Allenwood’s proud grandson. 

Growing up, Tyson said he was the recipient of many of his grandmother’s talents. But seeing her spread those talents with others is something that brings him joy. 

“It’s not always about donating money, or even just time. But sometimes just the thought of taking a skill set that you have that you can act on and have that be a benefit to the the broader community is a good thing,” Tyson said. 

Since his grandmother no longer drives, Tyson said he will drop off her donations to different organizations and people are often surprised. 

“You know, ‘Oh, thanks a lot for bringing this. Where did it come from?’ It’s like, ‘Oh, my grandmother made it, she’s 89 or she’s 90,’ depending on what year it was,” Tyson said. “93 going strong, and she’ll be doing this again next year. I guarantee it,” he said. 

And Ellinwood agrees. She has no plans on stopping anytime soon. 

“I just feel like I want to give as much as I can to these people,” she said. 

Ellinwood says there is a big need for items like scarves, hats, mittens, and blankets at local hospitals and shelters. She hopes to encourage others who may have the time, to also give back in any way they can. 

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