Woman crochets wool caps for troops

Susan Follis doesn't usually sit still.

Follis has a crochet hook by her television so she can make a wool cap while she watches a show.

She has another crochet hook by her computer to use while her dial-up Internet starts.

She crochets hats sometimes when she is chatting with her sister.

"How some people just sit, I sit and work on caps," Follis said.

The hours of crocheting have accumulated over the past two years, and she has mailed 215 caps to soldiers.

Follis has been making camouflage-colored hats for soldiers since early 2008 and said she will continue to do so until the war is over.

"It's the only thing I can do to maybe help one of those people," Follis said. "I mean, they're not going to let me go fight in the war."

As Follis sits crocheting, her hands move adeptly as she makes another row in a gray cap. Each hat takes Follis about 2 1/2 hours to complete.

Before she learned that soldiers needed wool caps, Follis had been sending care packages to distant relatives fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. At one of her Daughters of the American Revolution meetings, she learned about a program called Hats 4 Heroes, which was started by a woman in South Carolina.

Follis, who learned to crochet from her grandmother, took the instructions the woman gave and began making 100 percent wool caps, which she said are safer than hats of acrylic yarn, which burn more easily.

Although Follis has sent some caps to soldiers through the Hats 4 Heroes program, she usually sends them to individual soldiers in Afghanistan, preferring to focus on people connected to Kansas. She has sent some acrylic caps to people who are not stationed in countries that are at war.

With a blue "Support our Troops" ribbon on her front door, Follis calls attention to the U.S. soldiers stationed across the world. She said the caps let them know someone is thinking of them.

"I'm not for or against the war — I have no idea," she said. "But I do have great compassion for the people who fight in wars."

Ryan Weems, one of Follis' five children, said she has never been a person who wants recognition; Follis called herself "just a drop in the bucket." But she has received some thank-you notes from soldiers via the Web or mail.

One Christmas note from Sgt. Steven Achord read: "Ma'am thank you very much for the knit cap. The weather here in Iraq is getting cold, and the cap is great. I really appreciate the support. Thanks again!"

When Follis first heard of the Hats 4 Heroes program, she said she thought, "I can do that." That attitude has led her to volunteer for other organizations, too.

Each week, she picks up recyclable items at a local clinic. She plans to donate her long hair to Locks of Love. She adopted a dog named Dexter in December.

Weems said his mom often was raising money or finding volunteers for various causes when he was growing up.

Weems said Follis likes to focus on small things to help others. When his family eats at a restaurant, they save packets of ketchup or mayonnaise for Follis to mail in some of her care packages.

"She's always been one that's been better for helping people out," Weems said.