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Retirees seek to ease Newtown’s pain

BY LINDLEY ESTES

Gloria Zielinski has six children and 13 grandchildren.

Their safety has been on her mind a lot since Friday’s shooting in Newtown, Conn.

“To think of one of them being taken away for such a senseless…” she said tearfully, unable to finish the sentence.

Zielinski is a resident of Chancellors Village, a retirement community in Fredericksburg.

She’s also one of eight women there who wanted to do something help the survivors and families of the shootings.

They decided to make Christmas ornaments to send to Sandy Hook Elementary in memory of the students.

One of Zielinski’s daughters lives near Newtown, and she worries about her being close to the site of the violence.

Michelle Waller, assistant program director for the retirement community, said the women were distraught when they found out what happened, and needed to help. They decided to turn their regularly scheduled craft time into an opportunity to try to bring some holiday spirit back to a town that doesn’t have much to celebrate.

“It really touches these residents because these children didn’t get a chance to live,” Waller said. “They want to make something beautiful for these people.”

Audrey Ferrell is another one of the residents helping with the project.

She somberly put baby’s breath inside the clear glass ornaments, then tied ribbon to them. She wrote the names of the deceased on the glass balls, in red.

“There’s a lot of love in these,” Ferrell said.

Dee Akers came up with the idea to use baby’s breath inside the ornaments.

“It stands for innocence,” Akers said.

Ferrell said the Christmas season “is a very emotional time at a time when we are celebrating and praying for peace. At a time when there should be happiness, there is so much unhappiness.”

Ferrell remembered when she was in school at this time of year.

“I always enjoyed that time in grade school,” she said. “We memorized the Christmas story in Luke. I don’t think they still do that, but I treasure that memory.”

The residents don’t just craft for those experiencing tragedy, though.

Waller has a yard sale every year to benefit local organizations. The proceeds from this year’s sale went to the Family Life Christ Center.

The residents also make bonnets for babies in the neonatal intensive-care units in area hospitals and knit scarves to give to Bragg Hill Family Life Center.

“The residents here are giving at a moment’s notice,” Waller said.

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976

lestes@freelancestar.com

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