It was over six years ago, when Sheila Marriott, now 84-years-young, moved into the Walmer Links housing project in Walmer, Port Elizabeth, and a few children “adopted her”.  

This is her story:

“I first became interested in the 67 Blanket Project when I watched an appeal for blankets for the 1st Guinness record attempt, taking place at the Union building in April 2014.  The appeal was for 67 blankets, and I thought, “It’s now December, I can do that”.  

I live in a wonderful complex filled with a diversity of people.  I started crocheting on my doorstep while seeking the warming sun, and this piqued the interest of the children playing in the park outside my door.  I decided I would teach those eager to learn the skill of crocheting and have them help me make blankets for charity. Originally, an amazing 23 children, between the ages of 10 to 16, joined me in this project.

At the final count, we achieved an amazing 75 blankets to contribute to the 67 Blanket Project. 

Imizi Housing, the complex owners, kindly assisted us with extra wool and crochet hooks.  At the final count, we achieved an amazing 75 blankets to contribute to the 67 Blanket Project.  I have continued with 67 Blankets and have made blankets, as well as many scarves, which we donate each year. 

I promised the children that after the blankets, I would show them how to crochet a beanie.   The children went on to learn how to make scarves, then clothing, and eventually we even had our first fashion show of things they had made for themselves.

We had another fashion show in 2018, with fewer children, as some had moved, and occasionally we still have new ones joining us.  Currently, there are 27 children and we are working on another fashion show. All these great efforts for 67 Blankets, and for uplifting the youth around her, resulted in Sheila Marriott being nominated and winning, the 2020 Port Elizabeth Senior Citizen of the Year Award, age group 80-89.

After six years of total commitment, and her small apartment filled with children every afternoon, 7 days a week, she has finally decided to cut back to a weekly crafts club.  She hopes that someone else in the complex will continue with the endeavor, with finding sponsors for the wool, and that Imizi Housing, the owners of the housing project, will continue to support these youth. 

All these great efforts … resulted in Sheila Marriott being nominated, and winning, the 2020 Port Elizabeth Senior Citizen of the Year Award.

Her final fashion show with all the children and their crocheted creations was held on Saturday, 29th February. The weather was perfect in Port Elizabeth, no wind and not too hot.  An excited babble of youngsters filled the flat, as they got ready to model their brilliant crocheted creations for their family and friends.

A wonderful vibe was created with great music, encouragement in the form of much clapping, wolf whistles, and ululating, which had the initially shy children getting into the groove.  The outfits were happily modeled, many youths were creative with their items, switching a skirt to a shoulder wrap, a necklace to a headband and a scarf to an arm wrap.

It was a very sad and emotional moment when Sheila was thanked by parents of the children and they presented her with a token of their appreciation for everything she has done for them.  With tears in her eyes and a catch in her throat, Sheila and the children happily gathered for photos to document this wonderful afternoon.

Edited by: Michelle Pagel

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