AN 81-year-old Cork pensioner found a unique way of keeping herself sane during the recent lockdown.
This year has been a tough year for everyone and many people coped with living with Covid-19 in different ways. Anne Twomey, from Whitechurch, made teddy bears for a good cause!
“During the first lockdown I was lucky to have temporarily moved to Kerry to live with my son Jim and his family,” says Anne.
“However, I was back home when the second lockdown happened.
“Having very little face to face contact with people was difficult but I was determined to keep busy and try not to let it get to me.”
Anne, who is a member of the North Cathedral Choir, missed doing simple things like going to Mass or meeting her friends. Then she hit on a way to keep busy, while raising money for Cork Simon.
“I have always been good at sewing so I began making teddy bears during the second lockdown.”
Originally, she made them for her great-grandchildren, Charlie and Rua.
“People’s reactions were heart-warming and it cheered me up during a dark, difficult time,” says Anne.
“Each bear took me a lot of time to make as they were very labour-intensive but it kept me occupied and focused.
“My eyesight isn’t the best, so I bought bright lights so that I could see what I was working on.
“Getting materials also proved difficult as I couldn’t physically go in to a shop to buy the fur fabric and items I needed.”
Not to let this deter her, she bought the materials online.
Anne was originally taught how to sew by her mother, Kathleen Browne, when they lived at their home place in Mallow.
“I used to make dolls’ clothes, despite not owning a doll. I then graduated to making my own clothes as a teenager as there were no department stores and very little disposable income to spend on clothes.
“Over the years, I have made wedding dresses, christening robes and many other items of clothing for family members. Sewing relaxes me and I love doing it,” Anne said.
“During one of the bad storms in September, I was lying awake listening to the wind and rain battering the house and I was grateful to have a roof over my head. Of course, my mind naturally went to anyone who was homeless out in the elements that night. I decided then to try to sell the bears and donate the money to Cork Simon.”
Anne said: “I have always donated to both Cork Simon and the Vincent de Paul at Christmas time as I believe they work tirelessly.”
She has volunteered in many organisations such as the Cork Marriage Advisory Council and St Vincent De Paul and is very aware of the poverty and needs in the Cork area.
“The price of €100 on each bear was based on the cost of the materials needed to make them and on the time they took to make,” explained Anne.
“At 81, I needed help to sell them, so my family helped me put them on social media and they sold out in no time.”
She said she was very grateful to the people who bought them. The bears found their forever homes in many counties throughout Ireland, and one was even sent to New Zealand as a present.
Another bear was bought by the parents of Roisín Murphy in Cobh, in order to celebrate her Communion on December 19. Adam and Sarah Terry, from Whitechurch, were also delighted to receive a teddy bear, from their parents Christine and Mark.
As a result of people’s generosity and Anne’s hard work, she donated €1,400 last week to the Cork Simon Community.
Kerry McMahon, who accepted the cheque on behalf of the charity, said that they were delighted with the donation, as their community- based donations have been drastically reduced as a direct result of Covid.
The 24-hour charity needs €10million to run every year and has to fund €4million of this itself. So donations such as Anne’s are vitally important in order to keep their services going.
Cork Simon provides emergency accommodation as part of a range of services within the city.
According to government figures, there were 402 adults in emergency accommodation in Cork at the end of October. There had been a 7% increase in the need for this service in the three months to October.
As a result of Covid-19, the charity had to reduce the capacity at its emergency shelter. All their rooms now must have single occupancy. They also have designated rooms on site for anyone using their service who may need to self-isolate due to Covid.
Simon also provides a soup run, which currently operates as a take-away service as a result of pandemic restrictions.
Simon effectively housed one person per week last year. That is 52 people housed in 2020. Anne’s donation will help support all of these services.
Asked what her next project would be, Anne said: “My sewing machine is packed away for Christmas. I don’t think I will be doing teddy bears again very soon but who knows what the future holds?
“Making them kept me sane and did some good in the process.”
Anyone who would like to donate to Cork Simon can do so at corksimon.ie