A living doll recycles toy ones to give to disadvantaged children


With only 10 more days till Christmas, Viola Waldron's knitting needles finally are still, having completed scores of miniature doll sweaters for her annual charity project.

Yesterday, the 77-year-old Ellicott City resident finished her last batch of recycled dolls, making a total of 80 she has donated this year to the Christian Services of Howard County Inc. thrift shop.

From there, the dolls will be distributed to children whose parents can't afford new ones.

"There are so many people who need help and who can't afford the new dolls that are so expensive," says Mrs. Waldron, who lives with her 80-year-old husband, William.

That's why she decided, about four years ago, to use her knack for knitting to make tiny sweaters, scarves and hats for used dolls that she could fix up and give away.

So far, the senior has donated more than 325 dolls to the thrift shop, which helps families in need.

"Some of the children are so pleased and are thrilled to pieces because the clothes are handmade," says Thelma Lyman, co-manager of the thrift shop.

"Viola has made a lot of little girls happy."

But girls aren't the only recipients of Mrs. Waldron's goodwill. Although she has concentrated on girls' toys in the past, Mrs. Waldron this year donated to the shelter two bags of toys intended for boys.

"I have stipulated that they must not be sold," says Mrs. Waldron, who remembers having one doll and a teddy bear when she was a small child growing up in Plymouth, England.

The donations culminate a year-long process for Mrs. Waldron, who combs garage sales, flea markets and rummage sales for used dolls and other toys that she buys for about 50 cents each.

She tries to buy yarn in the same places and uses "pieces and bits" that she has accumulated from other knitting projects.

Undeterred by dirty faces and mangled locks on old dolls, she transforms them with soap, water and a few strokes of a comb. She finds some dolls with clothes intact and in need only of a good washing.

But other dolls could use an entire outfit. Mrs. Waldron estimates that she spends about five or six hours making each set of clothing.

"I usually knit a sweater and hat for most of them, even if they are clothed," says Mrs. Waldron who begins knitting in the spring.

By November, she is busy washing the toys. And when December arrives, the pressure of the Christmas season is on.

"I have had a hard time getting my Christmas cards out," Mrs. Waldron admits.

"It doesn't seem a chore -- although, after I have done about 60, I start to get a little tired of it."

With satisfaction in her voice, she seems happy to have finished the dolls for another season. "Now I can get my Christmas cards out."

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