(This is the first of a series of stories The Citizen will publish during Women’s History Month a celebration of women’s accomplishments and contributions celebrated in the month of March.)
By Shelby Stewart
Goodrich-When Nancy Tenniswood retired from teaching, she wasn’t done serving her community.
“I was a teacher for 26 years,” said Tenniswood, a former teacher in Goodrich. “I retired from teaching about 20 years ago.”
In those 20 years, Tenniswood picked up a few community service projects to keep herself busy. It all started when she and her husband began traveling more.
“When I retired, my husband and I started taking trips, and I would try to read in the car, so every time he wanted to talk to me, I had my nose in a book,” she said. “So that first Labor Day after I retired, we went camping, and I went to Michaels and I found this round loom that you can knit on and make hats, so I thought I could do that and talk to my husband.”
After she began making hats on her loom, Tenniswood was looking for somewhere to take the hats, and Carol Powers with the Atlas Goodrich Historical Society took some for a program that gives them to classrooms in the Flint area.
“I do about 100 a year,” said Tenniswood. She’s donated around 2,000 hats for children in need since she started making them.
She also started making what are called ‘ugly quilts,’ which are quilts made of leftover scraps of fabric. In one of her past churches, members got together and made them for homeless people. Even though she is no longer with that church, she still thought it was a good program.
“We put them together and we made them into sleeping bags, with batting, and they would give them to St. Vincent De Paul,” she said. “So I make the tops, and another lady makes the bottoms which are a bit more durable. I’ve done that about 15 years.”
Tenniswood said she taught her daughter to sew, and she now makes baby quilts for babies at Hurley Hospital.
“She lives in New York, so she’ll make 10-15 of those, and when we go to visit, I take them from her and give them to Hurley,” she said.
Donating blankets to Hurley Hospital is how she found another way to give back to children in need.
“I was taking tied fleece blankets up to Hurley, and I said to the woman one day, do you have any sewing projects,” said Tenniswood. “She came back and she had this little doll, probably 18 inches long, made out of muslin, and someone had crocheted a coat or something for it, and she said they need these babies.”
The dolls are available at Hurley Hospital for the children’s wing. When a child is admitted to the hospital, they get to pick out a doll and pick out clothes and a mask for it. That way, when a nurse came in to administer a shot or anything, they’ll show the child on the doll first.
“I think it’s a great program,” said Tenniswood. “And then of course, I don’t care for the knitting thing so I talked with my neighbor Dawn and she started doing the other half, I make the dolls, she makes the gowns.”
The Dawn she mentioned was Dawn LeBeau, her neighbor that had gone to University of Michigan Ann Arbor for medical treatments.
“She came over one day and she was sitting on my couch telling me about all these things people had done for her in the hospital, and she wanted to do something for someone else,” said Tenniswood. “I had just finished a batch of baby dolls, so she’s been making the gowns and masks for them.”
In total, she says, they’ve made about 300 dolls for Hurley Hospital.
“I just don’t like idle hands,” she said. “I can always clean house, but that only stays a couple days. I guess I’m just that way.”
Anyone who wanted to donate materials for Tenniswood to use in her projects, she accepts donations at Goodrich United Methodist Church, 8071 S. State Road.
“It’s funny, if I can’t use it, there’s always someone out there that could use it,” she said. “I know a man that is head of a senior citizen group, and they make stuff, blankets, bibs, so if I can’t use it, I usually ship it to him.”
When asked why she wanted to give back to those in need, Tenniswood said that people have always been nice to her, and she wanted to be nice back. She also said it keeps her busy.
“I don’t like to sit without doing something with my hands,” she said. “It helps pass the time.”