Sea Cliff resident Patrice Kaider has been a nurse case manager for NYU Winthrop Hospital for 15 years. A few years ago, she proposed a program called Winthrop for Veterans, which helps honor patients who are veterans.
Last July, volunteers began presenting those patients with handmade blankets stitched in red, white and blue patterns. The volunteers knit the blankets with craft yarn, some of which is collected in donation bins set up by Kaider’s daughter, Jacqueline.
Jacqueline, 17, is a senior at North Shore High School and the captain of the school’s dance team. In November, she and her teammates sold bracelets in the week leading up to Veterans Day, and raised over $500 for Winthrop for Veterans.
On Veterans Day, Patrice and Jacqueline headed to the hospital, in Mineola, to drop off their yarn donations. During their visit, Jacqueline and North Shore sixth-grader Victoria Dobies sold bracelets to hospital employees, and raised $100 more.
To expand her reach, Jacqueline set up collection bins around Sea Cliff to collect yarn from residents so volunteers could continue working on the blankets. The bins are located at the Sea Cliff Library, the Children’s Library and the K. DiResta Collective.
The donations from the community were more than she expected. “Since the bins were set up, people have been donating and emailing me, even sending blankets that they knitted themselves,” Jacqueline said. “It’s helped that the bins were around during the holiday season because people are so giving, but even outside of the holidays, when you mention veterans, people are very eager to participate.”
Her initiative has expanded beyond the village. Winthrop for Veterans volunteers knit blankets at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, in West Hempstead; the hospital’s own knitting club plans to expand its resources to make blankets for the program; and even the receptionists at the Kaiders’ veterinarian in Locust Valley are helping the cause.
“We went to take Buddy” — their dog — “to the vet, and the receptionists were busy knitting blankets behind the desk,” Patrice said. “They said, ‘We’re knitting for you.’” She added that Jacqueline’s great aunt, a 90-year-old widow of a World War II veteran, is knitting blankets at her home in Florida.
The veterans’ blankets are knit with red, white and blue yarn. The knitters turn donated yarn of other colors into items for cancer patients and hats for newborns.
Jacqueline’s efforts show her appreciation for veterans, including her relatives who’ve served: a grandfather who was in the Navy during World War II; a great uncle who survived the attack on Pearl Harbor; another great uncle who fought in the Battle of the Bulge; and an uncle who fought with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, a.k.a. the Screaming Eagles, in Vietnam.
“Being a soldier is one of the scariest and bravest things that you could do, so to honor the fact that they went through something like that is a great feeling,” Jacqueline said. “It’s good to see their reactions, too.”
Some veterans who are presented with blankets start to cry, Patrice said. “They were thrilled to be remembered,” she said. “You could see the flicker in their eyes that they’re proud of what they did, and that they’re being honored and not forgotten.”
Jacqueline is looking to set up more donation bins in Glen Head, and at North Shore High School.