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Every Day is a Day On: Sharing the Gift of Knitting

The Every Day is a Day On series spotlights volunteers at Operation Gratitude who are moved to action to support servicemen and women, their families, and first responders.

The eighth blog in this series features Mary Sayers from North Carolina. A dedicated volunteer who has served with Operation Gratitude for over 10 years, Mary is involved with her church’s Knitting for Charity group. Her love of making connections has created a large web of volunteers and donors, including Mormon missionaries. Mary loves to share her passion and gift of knitting whenever she can.

This is Mary’s Story…

Military service runs strong through Mary’s family. Her connection began in pre-kindergarten where summers spent at Torch Lake in Michigan provided endless free time. She discovered a book in the cabin titled “Life’s Picture History of World War II” and was captivated by the pictures. To this day, she loves watching war movies and seeing photos of airplanes, tanks, and troops. This passion even translated into her calling as a military recruiter when she was 14. 

This investment is also due to her large military family. Her husband, Sam, was a Naval Aviator; her uncle was a medical doctor in the Navy; her brother was a logistician in the Army and Air Force; her cousin was a medical corpsman in the Navy; her son is a Marine Corps aviator; her daughter is a Surface Warfare Officer in the Navy; her son-in-law was in the Marine Corps; and three of her grandsons serve, one in the Navy, one in the Army, and one in the Coast Guard. 

Before she started volunteering, Mary worked at Computer Science Corporation (CSC) at the Department of Energy and for the Department of the Navy as a cost analyst and systems engineer on Navy aircraft programs. She got to live her dream of being part of the military, and this job led her to her husband, Sam, who was the A-6/EA-6 Program Manager while she worked on the A-6 and EA-6 aircraft. She describes Sam as a tremendous pilot and a great leader, someone she had the utmost respect for. Mary spent two years in that role but later moved to work on other Navy aircraft and engine programs. 

You have no idea how important those care packages are to us who are deployed! I have been deployed and have received a care package.

Operation Gratitude Care Package Recipient

Mary has been volunteering with Operation Gratitude since 2010 when a fellow church member brought in information regarding the organization’s call for knitted scarves and hats for care packages. Since then, she has been the driving force behind the organized knitting effort at her church. She has contributed 1,621 scarves and hats through her passion for knitting.

Mary takes her knitting projects wherever she goes and has been approached in public about it, using those opportunities to make connections and spread the word about Operation Gratitude. She is passionate about teaching younger generations to knit and has made many bonds within the Mormon community just by inviting missionaries into her home, teaching them to knit, and sharing stories about her volunteerism.

A memorable experience Mary shared was when a couple reached out to her while she was knitting at the doctor’s office. When asked what she was knitting, she said it was a scarf for Operation Gratitude. Mary proceeded to tell about the organization and its mission. During the conversation, a man overheard and became excited, because he had been impacted by a care package while serving.

“It is so exciting to meet someone who has knit the scarves and hats,” he said. “You have no idea how important those care packages are to us who are deployed! I have been deployed and have received a care package.” The overjoyed man is a soldier from Ft. Bragg, a military base close to Mary’s home in Pinehurst. 

Mary also flew out to California a few years ago to help pack and send the One Millionth care package shipment. She met fellow Operation Gratitude volunteers in person. She also visited the Vietnam Memorial Wall replica where she saw the name of her cousin who was killed in action while attempting to save a third Marine.

She also volunteered at an Army Family Day at Ft. Bragg. Mary said, “It was so much fun to see how the children loved the Battalion Buddy teddy bears given to them by Operation Gratitude, as well as talking to the families. It was very rewarding.”

Operation Gratitude volunteers and recipients at Fort Bragg, NC – February 2021

She has made volunteering a priority in her life because she feels driven to serve and help others and it makes her feel good, as well. Mary’s goal in life is to, “arrive at the end of my life knowing that the world is better off because I lived.”

Volunteering, for her, is the best way to achieve that goal.

Get involved with Operation Gratitude’s virtual volunteerism efforts today!

This post was written by Jake Kelly, a communications intern at Operation Gratitude. Jake is from the Chicago suburbs and is a sophomore at the University of Connecticut pursuing a Bachelor’s in Journalism & History with a minor in Political Science.

Read more in the Every Day is a Day On blog series.

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