For the past 15 years, a special package arrives each December at the Freestore Foodbank; its contents carefully enclosed, gently wrapped with tissue paper and sealed with tape. It seems like an ordinary box by appearance, but there’s nothing ordinary about it. What’s inside has – what seems like – a magical power, the power to make people smile.
Underneath the cardboard, tape and holiday tissue paper is a labor of love – dozens of pairs of hand knitted mittens that come with an extraordinary story.
The package’s return address takes you to a quaint home in the suburbs of Cincinnati. Inside, shelves lined with books greet you in the living room. On the couch is a ball of red yarn and a woman with a phenomenal gift, Regina or as we call her – “the Mitten Lady.”
“I don’t like to waste time, so if I’m watching TV, I’m knitting,” Regina says with a laugh.
It was an image on her TV screen around Thanksgiving more than a decade ago that gave Regina a unique idea to help those in need. While watching the news, Regina’s attention was captured by a woman waiting to receive food for her family outside the Freestore Foodbank’s Customer Connection Center. The woman’s hands were covered with only a thin pair of socks.
“She stood quietly waiting for the line to move,” Regina recalls. “She alternately kneaded and blew on her hands, trying to warm them. She was a very pretty woman and well-kept. I felt like she was a good mother and she needed mittens.”
Armed with a skill set learned in her teenage years, Regina went to work, knitting mittens for the Freestore Foodbank to provide to families at its December holiday food distribution.
“If you can keep somebody’s hands warm, you’re doing something.”
Each year, after the mittens are carefully packaged and shipped, she often thinks of the people receiving her mittens. Regina, a mother of two, has a heart to nurture others.
“I feel like I’m giving somebody I don’t know a present,” Regina says. “To me, that’s the best kind of present you can get, one that someone doesn’t have to give you.”
As the lights and holiday decorations come down, Regina will have already started on next year’s mittens. Stitch after stitch, she continues to think of that stranger on TV who captured her attention and her heart nearly a decade ago.
“I pretend I’m knitting them for her,” Regina says with a bright smile. “Maybe she’ll be back for Christmas food, and maybe she’ll get a pair of these mittens.”