Charity is not always about donating money. Sometimes, it is about donating time – a lot of time.
That is the case for Glenys McLay, who has spent the past 18 years knitting away the hours creating garments and blankets for orphans and families in need in Eastern Europe as part of Operation Cover Up.
Eighty-two years ago, a 6-year-old Mrs McLay first picked up a pair of knitting needles. By age 8, she had knitted her first jersey.
“My mum can’t knit, but my aunty was a very good knitter and she taught me,” she said.
She was spurred to action for Operation Cover Up after a trip to Romania in 2003, which included a visit to an orphanage.
“It really opened my eyes how poor they are,” she said.
In winter, temperatures in Eastern Europe could get as low as -30degC and many children and families had little to help them face the cold.
“I used to support the Mission [Without Borders], I might’ve knitted one or two [garments], but when I went over there, I saw the need and I came back and I thought ‘that’s what I’m going to do’ .. and they’re so grateful for it,” she said.
She started off knitting garments for babies, but now her focus was on woollen blankets, she said.
“I decided I’d do the rugs because I can knit and watch the TV at the same time,” she said.
“I can’t do much else now, so at least I’m still useful.”
Mrs McLay is nearing the end of her stock of wool and is appealing for donations to keep her busy knitting blankets for orphans and the elderly in Eastern Europe.
“If I get a bit of wool, that’d be lovely – and I’ll share it around with the others who knit [for Operation Cover Up] too,” she said.
A lot of people donated scraps of wool which she worked into the blankets – she used everything she was given. “It’s all got a use.”
She liked adding colour to her creations, to brighten up the lives of those who received them.
“A lot of the buildings over there are just concrete, they’re all grey and dull, so I try to do it as colourful as I can,” she said.
She had not kept count of all of the items of clothing and blankets she had knitted for the cause, but estimated she would have knitted “well over 100” blankets over the years.
“I usually do about nine or 10 [blankets] every year, and I’ve been doing it for a good number of years now,” she said.
Mrs McLay is one of many in Oamaru, and hundreds around New Zealand, involved in knitting, donating wool, fundraising for shipping costs and preparing items for shipping for Operation Cover Up.
Each year, two large shipping containers, bursting with blankets and clothing, as well as hygiene items, are sent to those in need in Eastern Europe by Operation Cover Up.