Aptly named the “Flying Needles,” Alex Morales and fellow members of the group have kicked up what he considers their ministry of yarn.
“It’s a ministry and a way of me showing what I can do, and giving of myself,” Morales said. “I make it with love – every stitch and every knot.”
The Flying Needles, organized in August of last year, and have been meeting every Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the St. Charles Parish Library in Luling where they’ve been crocheting items like blankets, lap afghans and caps for people who need them. Morales was looking for their next project when he found Ashton Manor Assisted Living and Memory Care in Luling.
And everything clicked.
The Flying Needles went to work intently to make Christmas special for many of Ashton Manor’s residents.
To Trudy Lopez’s amazement, Morales delivered 19 shawls and 19 lap blankets designed for residents in wheelchairs on Dec. 12. Some of the blankets even had a camo look for the men.
“I thought he was only bringing the blankets, but he showed up with 38 blankets and shawls, which excited the residents,” Lopez said. “He gave a little talk to the residents and said his goal was to bring them warmth. Everyone loved them. They had tears in their eyes. They each picked the color they wanted.”
Lopez called it a genuine gift.
“The story is Ashton residents not only got a blanket of warmth, but also got to feel loved during the holiday season from someone who didn’t know them,” she said. “You can tell every blanket was made with love.”
For Morales, who praises God for his work, it was absolutely true.
After he gave out the gifts, a man in the crowd asked if he’d make a shawl for his only granddaughter. A week later, he showed with a pink shawl – as requested – with Christmas wrapping.
“He cried and I cried tears of joy,” Morales said. “He couldn’t understand how I did it so fast and for him. I replied, ‘It was my pleasure. Thank you and thank God. It motivates me to do more.”
Morales reveled over residents calling him “the preacher man,” who are asking when he will visit them again.
In return, Lopez said they provided yarn and asked everyone at Ashton Manor to also provide it if they had any.
“Anything we can collect here at Ashton, we could give him for his next project,” she said. “It’s kind of a circle. We can give to him and he can give to others.”
This project is an extension of Morales’ ministry with First Baptist Church of Avondale, where he also lives. Being only 15 minutes away, though, he is also active in St. Charles Parish where he became head of the Flying Needles.
The group also includes Janie Tilton, Yvette Angley, Eloise Moll and Karen Cancienne, who all live in the parish.
They share a passion for crocheting those in need.
This year’s project is making chemo beanie caps for cancer patients at West Jefferson Medical Center in Marrero. They’ve already made 20 since Christmas.
Morales is energetic about the ministry, mostly because it’s a new lease on life for him after surviving a triple heart bypass. He was in cardiac rehabilitation when the opportunity came along to join the Flying Needles.
But his love for crocheting goes back to childhood.
“I started when I was eight years old with my momma,” he said. “At the time, you couldn’t buy crawfish nets so instead we made our own.”
Morales isn’t self-conscious about doing what he loves. He grew up on a farm, the oldest of nine children, where everything had to be made. He recalled making his baby sisters dresses out of flour and feed sacks, which they would not had otherwise.
“When you are in the country you learn how to improvise and use what’s at hand,” he said.
Now at 77 years old, he started making other projects like hats and started expanding into his own designs. Then he put it aside for 25 years as a workaholic or at least until he needed heart surgery, and out came the old thread and hooks with the crocheting ministry not far behind at the library.
“Ministry is all what its about,” Morales said of having made at least 125 projects and he’s given them all away. Among them was a beanie cap and shawl for the late Emmerson Dean, the 10-year-old whose life inspired so many.
At Christmas, he made 85 Christmas wreath ornaments. Each group member got one, too.
“God has used me and blessed me in so many ways,” Morales said. “I’m an open vessel and I want him to use me.”