WILKES-BARRE -- People from across the country have been mailing WNEP boxes of yarn this week. It's all for a woman who has a passion for crocheting.
Last week, photographer Mike Erat spotted Mary Dippolito outside our Wyoming Valley Newsroom, sitting on a bench on Public Square. We started talking to her and were quickly inspired about why she loves to crochet.
“I do it by touch, because when you get old, your eyes get strained,” she said.
The 77-year-old woman's fingers dance back and forth in a choreographed rhythm 40 hours a week.
“I make up my own patterns,” she said.
Mary makes everything from afghans to winter hats. She sends the hats to Catholic Social Services, where they are given to needy children. After a video of Mary was posted to Facebook last week, hundreds of people responded, many sending us money or yarn to give to her.
But it wasn't until this second meeting that we learned why Mary spends so much time with her crochet hook.
“I feel like because I'm old, I don't want to be just sitting rocking away, or watching TV, you know!” she said.
She raised a daughter but never married the father. Last year, her daughter died of AIDS. Even though she’s been crocheting hats for Catholic Social Services for 14 years, now, with no one else in her life to give to, knitting those hats for other people's kids has a special meaning.
“I don't like to be useless,” she said.
When we met with Mary for the second time, we read her some of the comments people wrote about her and her crocheting on that Facebook post.
One said, “thanks for highlighting a terrific soul, she's a sweetheart.”
Another: “That's how you get to heaven.”
“Wow, you know, I don't have anybody, and I'm very lonely,” Mary said. “That's that makes me feel very good, I really appreciate so much, this."
Of course, Mary isn't a nobody and clearly has more friends than she realizes, including us here at Newswatch 16. Mary plans on keeping up with her craft in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
If you're looking to help Mary continue her great work, donations can be sent to:
Catholic Social Services
33 East Northampton Street
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18701