Local Ministries

With 500th afghan completed, it’s ‘Mission Accomplished’

Jane Godar Kreiter, a parishioner of Church of the Ascension in Overland Park, dropped off the 500th lap afghan she crocheted for Catholic Community Health on Nov. 15. It took her just under nine years to reach this goal. COURTESY PHOTO

by Ben McCarthy
Special to The Leaven

OVERLAND PARK — Five years ago, The Leaven featured Jane Godar Kreiter, a parishioner at Church of the Ascension here, who had just finished crocheting her 200th lap afghan for patients at Catholic Community Hospice (now Catholic Community Health).

Sitting in her recliner at night, Godar Kreiter would work for hours with her crochet hook and knitting bag.

“I used to get one done in five days,” she said. “Now, because of arthritis, it takes seven.”

After reaching her initial goal of 200, she decided to keep going and aim even higher. The native of Marshalltown, Iowa, rededicated herself to producing an additional 300 lap afghans.

“I never dreamt of doing that much for that long, but once I got to 200, I figured why stop now?” Godar Kreiter said. “So, I kept going. 

“When I’m working on them, I’m thinking about how [the recipients] are ill and I’m praying for them.”

After almost nine years, the 500th lap afghan was completed and delivered to Catholic Community Health. Her husband Mike delivered it, as he has been doing every week since 2014. Godar Kreiter says it’s not only been a physical labor to complete the 500 lap afghans, but also somewhat of a spiritual journey that began when her parents moved to the Veterans Affairs nursing home in Marshalltown 17 years ago.

Her mom suggested the idea of creating lap afghans for residents. She knew Godar Kreiter had been knitting since she was in high school, even making Christmas socks for some of her 12 siblings.

“My oldest brother got married while I was still in high school and had a baby,” Godar Kreiter said. “I decided I was going to make a sweater for the baby. That really got me going.”

Her mom began passing the lap afghans out to her fellow residents. They were an instant hit. Production continued for the VA until she and Mike got married and moved to Kansas City in 2008. In 2014, she came across Bonnie Krauss in Overland Park.

Krauss, then serving as volunteer manager for Catholic Community Hospice, was very receptive to importing the practice Godar Kreiter had begun in Iowa. The idea to embark on the quest for the initial 200 afghans was born.

“She would supply me with all the yarn I needed through TurnStyle thrift [stores],” Godar Kreiter said. “They just kept bringing me bags of it. Thankfully, my husband has been very supportive — despite yarn strewn all over the house for years.”

Deacon Jim Lavin, who serves at Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Overland Park and as chaplain at Catholic Community Health, has seen firsthand how the patients and their families react to Godar Kreiter’s work. Deacon Lavin helps present each afghan to a veteran and his or her family. A recent visit to a veteran at Park Meadows Senior Living in Overland Park was indicative of the kinds of reactions that the handmade gifts are frequently met with.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” Deacon Lavin said. “[Jane] has given so much of her time and just done a beautiful job to honor not just the patients, but the families as well.”

Godar Kreiter says she was happy to make the switch from afghans featuring a plethora of colors, to a more traditional set of patriotic colors that characterize her recent work.

“[Catholic Community Health] would share all of these ‘thank-you notes’ they were getting, so I just kept getting more of the red, white and blue yarn and making that design,” Godar Kreiter said. “People were saying they would bury loved ones with these lap afghans. It does my heart good to know that I’ve done something to impact 500 families in a positive way.” 

Tammy Urriola, volunteer coordinator at Catholic Community Health, said the families of the veteran patients love and adore Godar Kreiter’s creations, and the organization will be challenged to find a way to match her considerable contributions to those patients.

Urriola is also looking for volunteers to spend time with patients, about a half hour each week at facilities around the metro area.

After she recently hit afghan number 500, Godar Kreiter felt it was finally time to retire her crochet hook for good. It’s been an almost decade-long commitment for Godar Kreiter, and arthritis is beginning to play a more significant role in her life. She’s also focused on recovery from back surgery in August, and looming knee replacement.

“I’m framing the crochet hook,” Godar Kreiter said. “I’ve worn the paint off of it . . . the finish. I’ll put it up on the shelf [with this article].”

Godar Kreiter laughs to think just how long ago she began learning her craft. Suffice it to say that it was more than a few years before the advent of YouTube made it easy to learn something from an online tutorial. 

She can still remember being taught by a friend of a classmate how to knit with small needles, and how much it bothered her hands. That prompted the switch to crocheting, and thus the beginning of a foundation for a unique journey that seems to have come to an end.

“I think the arthritis has decided whether I make more or not. But if anyone wants to learn how to do this, I’d be glad to teach them,” she said.

About the author

The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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