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Spirit of knitting for needy kids never takes a holiday

Knitted caps of eye-catching colors were scattered across Elizabeth Biro’s neatly made bed.

They were purple and white, pink and blue, red and black and other hues.

More will be coming, too.

“As long as my fingers work, I’m going to keep doing it,” said Biro, a spry 93 and a 25-year resident at Freedom Village. “Somebody is benefiting, whether it’s at Christmas or any time of year.”

Especially children.

Biro made 50 for Adopt-A-Family this Christmas, 60 last year and 60 the year before that.

She’s made more than 300 for Adopt since 2004.

Then there’s the 100-plus caps she’s knitted for All Children’s Hospital cancer patients, migrant children and other service groups.

“A friend’s grandson was being operated on (at All Children’s) and she was going to visit the child,” Biro said. “So I found a new outlet (knitting 22) for them and got a beautiful letter. Even if I don’t hear back that’s OK, too. It’s going to the cause it should go to. And that’s children.”

“It’s Mom’s missionary spirit,” said Barb Willcox, visiting from Dallas.

Indeed, a daughter of missionaries, Biro grew up in Japan, then embarked on a teaching career with pre-schoolers and kindergartners in Rockville Centre, N.Y.

Upon retiring she increased her knitting for the good of others.

Biro can knit a cap in half-a-day if she does it straight through, but she usually takes a couple of days.

“I guess I felt I could share my abilities for my love of children and displaced people,” she said.

It hit home years ago when Biro volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in Immokalee.

“The families would live there for several month in terrible living conditions, then go north for another harvest,” she recalled.

“The Immokalee kids started it for her,” Willcox said. “She saw a need and, when it was accepted and even wanted, it went from there.”

Adopt-A-Family’s Cindy Eliason said the volunteer program treasures what individuals like Biro do, as well what a women’s group called “Busy Bees” does: making baby clothes and blankets.

“It moves us, because there are a lot of babies and younger children who may not have these things,” Eliason said.

“When it’s handmade it’s very personal and, hopefully, will be handed down to the next generation of children.”

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fla. 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com.

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