They say the hand of God works in mysterious ways, and Newton resident Donna Baarda believes she is working through her hands with the teddy bears that she makes for charity.
Baarda has been making each teddy bear by hand for the last six years and has made 3,500 of them, all of which either have been or will be donated to various charities. Each bear takes two hours to complete, and she does them all from a chair in her impeccably clean sitting room. She also crotchets an assortment of other goods, including crotchet crosses for adults, but admits the bears are her favorite.
“I just felt like I needed to use my time more wisely,” Baarda said on why she started making the bears. “Not to waste my time and do something that may be of benefit to others. And as long as the Lord lets me have the wrist and the arm to do it, I’ll just keep doing it.”
Baarda has been crocheting since she was 10 years old and has 71 years of experience doing it. She was originally taught by her mother. Another habit of hers is knitting, which she didn’t pick up until she was 50. Her husband, Bob, is very supportive of her.
“Well I figured if it was something she likes to do, more power to her,” Bob said from his easy chair with a big laugh.
Each bear has it’s own color and a vest that is a different color so that every kid who receives them gets a unique bear. No two bears are alike and the only common trait amongst them is the scripture she attaches to each bear, John 3:16 which reads, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
Baarda puts the scripture in English on one side and whatever the native tongue is for the other country the bears are going to if she knows ahead of time. The list of countries her bears travel to is as long as it is varied. El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Romania, the Congo, Haiti, India, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mali and Rwanda.
“I’m glad to see that they receive [the bears],” Baarda said. “It’s really something that to them this may be the only toy that they ever had, and our kids here in America have so much. It’s kind of sad that they have so little, but they’re so happy to get just to get one little toy.”
Baarda makes between 500 and 800 bears annually and first got involved after her sister in Colorado taught her how to make them. She also knits sweaters for charity and has donated 3,000 of her crotchet crosses as well.
“I feel like I’ve accomplished something,” Baarda said. “My prayer is that they bring joy to those children and they feel God’s love.”
Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.