VACAVILLE — They can’t be missed.
Step in the door of Tony’s Restaurant, a Vacaville eatery, on Wednesday morning and they’re in one corner or another — probably heard before seen. There is infectious laughter emanating from wherever they are.
“We drove the bridge people away,” said Connie Thill, with a laugh. “We were so loud (and) they didn’t say a word. They were so quiet.”
Once the eyes and ears stray away from the laughter, it’s impossible to miss that their hands are busy — not with eating utensils, but rather with quilting supplies, knitting needles or crochet hooks as they work on blankets of various sizes.
Meet The Happy Hookers. Most are Vacaville residents and all are women with heart, using their creativity to help children and others in need. All are members of the Solano County chapter of the nonprofit Project Linus.
The bridge players at the restaurant aren’t the only people who tired of their chatter and laughter, they playfully announce. A handful met in a local water aerobics class, bound by their common interest, and did too much talking in class.
“We used to get in trouble because we talked too much,” said Laura Proctor, the coordinator for the Solano County chapter of Project Linus. She laughed as she added, “We decided to meet for coffee.”
Members of the group laughed again as they discussed how Proctor and the rest began “recruiting” others to join their enterprise.
“At first they invite you for coffee and then they want to know if you crochet, by any chance,” said Joyce Bristow, laughing.
As they got bigger and louder, they began meeting at other Vacaville locales. Eventually they hooked up with Project Linus, which makes blankets for needy, traumatized or seriously ill children. In addition, they make hats for the American Cancer Society and donate clothes to Lilliput Children’s Services, which also receives blankets from them via Project Linus.
While each member happily and laughingly admitted to an extreme addiction to yarn, fabric and all things needed to make blankets for Project Linus, they grow pensive and passionate when asked about Project Linus and the blankets they make for the children connected with the charities and nonprofits the local Project Linus supports.
“The blanket is for the child,” said Anita LaViolette. “I always felt that every child needs a blanket. It puts a smile on their face.”
Marilyn Sponzo added, “It comes from your heart.”
Sponzo has a special ritual she goes through before handing in her blankets — all are neatly tied with various material and sometimes adorned with a donated stuffed animal — to Proctor at the monthly Project Linus meeting in Fairfield.
“I hug it very tightly and say a little prayer before giving it to Laura,” she said.
The Solano County chapter of Project Linus, which has 25 to 30 members who consistently come to the meetings and more than 100 people on the official roster, collects 100 to 130 blankets each month. They recently reached a total of 3,000 blankets made and donated since inception in 2008. At the meetings, blankets are affixed with labels and grouped according to who is going to deliver them to the various locations.
The local group works with dozens of organizations, such as Mission Solano, The Father’s House, David Grant Medical Center’s neonatal and pediatrics unit and the Children’s Nurturing Project.
“It makes us feel good,” Proctor said.
For more information about Project Linus, contact Proctor at 447-2424 or by email at [email protected]
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.