After 76 years of crocheting, making everything from bedspreads to blankets to infant hats, Evelyn Elmore didn’t have the desire to crochet anymore.

For the past six months or so, Evelyn, 86, has been at Alton Memorial Rehabilitation & Therapy (formerly Eunice Smith Home), where she was admitted for a non-COVID-related illness. When she arrived, she was so weak she couldn’t walk, and it was going to take a long time and a lot of therapy for her to regain her strength.

“It wiped me out,” Evelyn said as she reflected on how she felt. “My writing wasn’t good. My thinking wasn’t great. And I was so tired when I got here that I couldn’t crochet, and then I really didn’t want to crochet.”

But over the last few months, with the help of the team at Alton Memorial Rehabilitation & Therapy, Evelyn began to feel better and get stronger. But to Evelyn, despite her love of crocheting, the activity was still out of the question.

Enter Tonya Grant, the Program Director of the therapy department at Alton Memorial Rehabilitation & Therapy.

“I could tell that not being able to crochet was causing Evelyn to feel pretty depressed, and I wanted to figure out a way to help,” Tonya said. “She was strong enough to crochet, she just didn’t know it. So that’s when I challenged her.”

Growing up, Tonya had learned a couple of stitches from her grandmother, but she had never had any desire to pursue the hobby. Until now.

“I told Evelyn that if she began crocheting again, that I’d start up and she could help me,” Tonya said. “I wasn’t sure how she’d react, but it was clear that she was ready.”

So for the past six weeks, Evelyn and Tonya have crocheted together whenever they could. They’ve made blankets, baby headbands, and adult ear warmers. Tonya says she’s really enjoying it. And Evelyn says that Tonya is doing great.

“She is doing wonderful,” Evelyn said. “It makes me very proud of her that she started, and that she keeps getting better. It’s something that no one can take from you, and you can do for the rest of your life.”

To Tonya’s surprise, she might just do that.

“The reason for starting really was because I was worried about Evelyn and her depression – she wasn’t able to get together with her friend Mildred and crochet with her like they always used to,” Tonya said. “It was wonderful to see her get back to normal and to see her smiling again.

“But I’m enjoying it much more than I thought I would!” she exclaimed. “It kind of lit a fire in me, and I think I’m going to keep crocheting, even after Evelyn is discharged.”

That day is coming very soon. Finally, Evelyn has improved so much that she is preparing to move to an assisted living community in the area. You can bet she’ll be ready to crochet with whoever asks.

“I remember that I couldn’t walk a stitch when I got here,” said Evelyn, not realizing her pun. “Everyone here (at Alton Memorial Rehabilitation & Therapy) made me feel so comfortable. I am happy to get to my (new) home, but I’ll miss everyone here. This is a great place to be.”