From a chair in her living room in Statesville, retired teacher Vera G. Webster is providing comfort and warmth for countless people she may never meet. Webster crochets hundreds of blankets, shawls and other items for cancer patients at Iredell Memorial Hospital.
Now 96 years young, she shows no signs of stopping.
"It is such a satisfaction to me, not in a selfish way, but at this age I ask 'why am I here? What can I do?'" Webster said. "Through the good Lord I am able to do this."
Webster developed a talent for arts and crafts at an early age growing up in Iredell County. She says it was her mother who taught her to crochet.
"She was an artist with a needle," Webster remembered. "I learned by watching her."
Now Webster makes her own works of art with bundles of colorful yarn. The blankets are available for people going through cancer treatment, or any patient in the hospital who could use one. Webster became an Iredell Memorial Hospital volunteer in 1996, with help from her good friend and fellow volunteer, Norma Dearman.
"My husband had just passed and I needed something to do," said Webster. "I was volunteering at my church and Norma was instrumental in getting me involved at Iredell."
Dearman and Webster knew each other from their time teaching together at Statesville High School. Webster was the longest serving teacher in the Iredell-Statesville Schools district at the time, retiring after 48 years in the classroom. Since she is no longer able to make the drive to the hospital to pick up yarn for blankets, Dearman makes regular deliveries of yarn to Webster's house.
"It's a blessing in disguise," said Webster. "She sees my old students and their parents coming in the front door of the hospital. She gets to talk to some of our old friends and lets me know how they are doing. We've had some mighty good hours."
Once she gets the yarn, it takes Webster a few evenings to finish a blanket. She works so consistently and faithfully that Iredell Memorial volunteers have been able to give excess blankets and shawls to others in the community, including hospice patients. Statesville firefighters also received the handmade blankets to share with people they meet while on duty.
Even though she's left the classroom, Webster can still teach a lesson or two about service, humility and sharing.
"I tell Norma if she sees someone in the hospital, maybe a lady in a wheelchair, who looks like she could use a little warmth, just put a shawl around her neck," said Webster. "All that I do now is an outgrowth of my caring for people. I cared for high school kids for 48 years and I enjoyed it tremendously. This is just an extension of what I feel that I've been left here to do. I can still be helpful to someone."