Cook, a patient access representative for Renown Behavioral Health on Mill Street in Reno, has been working for the past two years, knitting hats, scarves and slippers for cancer patients and homeless individuals.
And with nearly 400 articles of clothing having been made, this Washoe Valley resident said she isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
“My family has always done stuff like this,” Cook said quite modestly. “I was raised to give back to the community.”
Cook got her start by knitting bags full of hats and scarves. She originally dropped off more than 200 handmade articles as an anonymous donation at the Reno/Sparks Gospel Mission.
Before long, Cook said, the donation demand grew too large for her to supply her own yarn. She then opened up to the community, asking for yarn donations.
Cook learned to knit from her 93-year-old grandmother, Helen Drath of Wisconsin, who is also involved in similar charity knitting programs and has knitted more than 700 articles for homeless people. Her grandmother is such an inspiration that Cook said has allowed her to keep an altruistic spirit alive.
“The way to make things and then give them back, I definitely got from her (my grandmother),” Cook said.
Though Cook has never personally suffered from cancer herself, she said cancer has affected close family members, including her aunt who suffered from breast cancer. It is Cook’s gratitude that keeps her knitting every day.
“I really lead a charmed life,” Cook said. “I have a wonderful life, with a wonderful job and family. I really just want to brighten up someone’s day.”
Before beginning, Cook said she researched and asked numerous cancer patients what they needed in terms of a knitted article for warmth. She soon found that in addition to hats where patients suffered from hair loss due to chemotherapy, patients also wanted something to keep warm the area surrounding their port, an implantable device that injects the chemotherapy medicine into the veins.
“They told me what they thought they needed,” Cook said. “And I made it.”
Although her knitting program is now public because of needed yarn donations, Cook said she doesn’t do it for recognition – she said the feeling of making a difference, no matter how small, is worth it.
“It makes people feel good to know that someone cares about them,” Cook said in a previous interview. “It helps them feel better and it makes me feel good to know I am contributing to the community in some way.”
Although Cook often does not personally drop off and meet the patients the articles are delivered to, she said she sees patients in front of Renown Hospital with the hats on, reminding her why she is doing what she is.
Cook said she is never without her hat-knitting loom, needles and balls of yarn. Cook said she doesn’t stop bringing her tools with her to work on during her breaks at work or while waiting at the doctor’s office.
“I just carry it with me all the time,” Cook said, explaining that it takes about two hours to finish a hat and three hours to finish a pair of slippers. “Now with my son out of the house, it’s the perfect outlet. And as long as I keep receiving yarn donations, I will continue to knit and donate my items.”
To make a yarn donation, contact Cook at 240-2189.