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‘Building the bridge between two families’

Crochet club gives back to military community

CHRISTINE HARKINSON/The Sun: Masonic’s crochet club – also known as The Happy Hookers – began with four members and now has 13.

The crochet club at Masonic Village at Burlington knitted baby clothes for military families living on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL) earlier this month.

“They made over 100 articles,” said Alyssa Gruenes, director of marketing at Masonic Village, of what members made for the base’s annual Baby and Toddler Expo. 

Gruenes is also a military mom and vice president of the board of military spouses at McGuire. She orchestrated the crochet project and was eager to bring her military and Masonic families together.

“I asked them (the crochet club) to do this, and they were just so excited,” Gruenes said. “They were so excited to help those new moms and to find a purpose to fulfill their lives right now in helping these new moms.”

“It was just such an amazing opportunity to bring the residents into this.”

Masonic’s crochet club – also known as The Happy Hookers – began with four members and now has 13. Member Cathy Clyburn has a connection to helping military moms: Her first husband was in the Air Force, stationed in Japan. Her current husband, John, is a Vietnam War veteran who also served in Germany. 

Clyburn crocheted baby hats and toddler scarves, some in camouflage colors to salute the Army.

“I think it’s very important that it’s done for them,” Clyburn noted of the club giving back to military families. “They do everything for us; they give their lives for us. We can at least make some booties and blankets to go to them, and anything else we can do.”

Masonic has a long history of supporting the military. Once an orphanage for children, it became a residence for mothers and widows of fallen soldiers in 1919. Member Madalyn Crackel was excited to meet new military spouses and moms at the expo. Her husband was in the Army during the Korean War, so she could easily relate to families living at the Joint Base.

“I would say, ‘be friends with everybody,’” Crackel recalled of advice she would give to new moms on the base. “It’s hard for some people to make friends right away, but if you join in, you can be a part of it. It’s a lot of fun, and you meet people from all over the country.”

Gruenes circled back to how special it was to bring together people she’s come to love. She also shared a simple piece of advice for all military moms.

“You’re not alone,” she advised. “Don’t be afraid to say that you’re struggling. There’s not too much pride in that. We typically all feel the same things and you have an entire community.”

“You just have to reach out.”

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