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A warm and welcome way to remember Shirley Soehner

A local family is looking to honour the passing of Elmira’s beloved ‘Welcome Wagon Lady,’ Shirley Soehner, by raising funds for the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.

After the passing of her mother last September, Cindi Conlon and her family started knitting as a way to remember Shirley, an avid knitter in the community. The idea then turned into a way they could raise donations for the charity that had become close to their hearts.

“My daughter said to me, ‘why don’t you start knitting? I’ll knit and anybody else in the family that would like to join us, and let’s raise some money for the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.’ So, we got to work right away – it’s been a great activity to keep us busy through the pandemic,” said Conlon.

“We have over 300 hats, headbands, and mittens in our inventory. The knitting was therapeutic through this past year, it was great to be creative, and watching our pile grow.”

For those looking to keep their head warm this winter, Nan’s Noggins, will be holding a sale on Saturday (October 23) at 14 Ernst St. in Elmira from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. They will have handmade winter wear available for purchase, with all proceeds going to the charitable organization.

“We have a multitude of colours, styles and sizes. Everything from a little infant up to the biggest noggin you can imagine.”

They are hoping to sell out of all their knitted items during the sale, noted Conlon, but will look towards donating anything leftover.

“My mom’s sister got involved, she’s an 80-year-old lady and she knit quite a few. My sister-in-law lives here in Elmira, and she was one of our knitters; my daughter in New Zealand, and then I have a couple of friends who also contributed. It was my daughter’s idea: she had knitted us all hats last Christmas, the first Christmas without my mom, and she wanted to do something sort of special, so she started knitting, an activity that my mom had taught Emily, my daughter, a couple years ago. Emily used her skills and made us all toques for Christmas. She was the one that suggested that maybe we do this as a fundraiser.”

Many people in the community will miss Shirley, but will remember her for the knitted gifts she left them.

“When there were new babies, there was a blanket that was given to the neighbours, and she made prayer shawls for the church. Our grandkids and her great grandchildren were all outfitted and in toques; there was always a sweater at Christmas. I now understand the hobby is addictive, and it just feels good sitting, knitting and it makes this sort of a connection with mom that I haven’t experienced before. Mom was the Welcome Wagon lady, welcoming newcomers to Elmira for quite a number of years, maybe 20 or so. She started the Welcome Wagon program here in town,” she said, noting that all the knitted goods are made with love.

With the fundraising effort underway, Conlon noted Nan’s Noggins may become an annual endeavour.

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