Step into the arts and crafts room in Brooksby Village's McIntosh Clubhouse on a Friday morning, and you'll find a group of ladies with sewing needles or crochet hooks in hand.
The Heart Ladies formed 12 years ago as an avenue for those who like to sew, quilt, and crochet to work collectively on projects.
Mim Willows chairs the Heart Ladies and says the group was initially comprised of mostly teachers who decided that any funds raised by their handiwork would benefit Brooksby's Student Scholarship Fund. The fund awards annual scholarships for post-secondary education to students who work in dining services at the Peabody, Mass., community.
In 2018, the Heart Ladies donated $1,750 to the Student Scholarship Fund.
"It's our way of doing something we enjoy and using the proceeds to benefit others," says Mim.
Decorating with hearts
The Heart Ladies have two major undertakings each year. Every February, in honor of Valentine's Day and American Heart Month, the Heart Ladies blanket Brooksby Village with stitched and stuffed hearts.
The colorful ornaments hang from trees and the outdoor gazebo, dangle from the climate enclosed walkways that connect each clubhouse, adorn the restaurants and common areas, and even hang from apartment doorways.
The heart movement originated with Helene Cabour, who moved to Brooksby from Winchester in 2004.
"I'm a quilter, and I had a lot of extra material," says Helene. "One day I started making hearts from my leftover material."
In 1988, Helene hung 70 hearts from the tree in the front yard of her house in Winchester.
"No one noticed that year," says Helene. "But the next year, I hung 150 hearts, and people started to notice. They'd stop in front of my house to see the hearts."
In the years that followed, Helene began to hang hearts around town, on the grounds of her church, and in friends' gardens who asked for them.
"It became quite a tradition," says Helene. "The hearts stayed out from February 1 through March 1."
Even the people who purchased Helene's house in Winchester continue to put her hearts out each year.
At Brooksby, the tradition continues. Helene was a founding member of the Heart Ladies, and the heart movement took hold.
"I love seeing all the colors and patterns around campus," says Helene. "Making the hearts continues to be a good way to occupy my hands, whether I work on them for 5 minutes or 30 minutes at a time."
Hand-crafted goods for sale
The Heart Ladies' other endeavor is Brooksby's annual crafts fair, which takes place each November.
"We make scarves, hats, blankets, placemats, table runners, wall hangings, and Christmas ornaments to sell at the fair," says Mim.
Rhonda Culbert moved to Brooksby three years ago.
"The first thing I did after I moved in was seek out the Heart Ladies," says Rhonda, who enjoys crocheting. "That's the great thing about Brooksby. There's a group for every interest."
To learn more about the engaged and involved groups at Brooksby Village and so much more, request a free brochure today.