Though she's not totally wheelchair bound, Sue Lyke of Luther Community Manor has limited mobility. Even so, that doesn't stop her from doing for others.
"I can't just sit and do nothing," Lyke said. "I'm not one of those people."
Instead, she has chosen to spend her time knitting and crocheting hats that ultimately end up covering the heads of some of the area's less fortunate. This year alone, Lyke estimates she made around 600 hats that were distributed through various charities.
The hats ended up in the hands of Oscoda Fish, a Christian organization that distributes them through the Department of Human Services. Other recipients were the Vietnam Veterans Toys for Kids program and Carol's Baby Pantry, also in Oscoda where Lyke resided for a number of years. Additionally, she makes her hats for newborns at Alpena Regional Medical Center.
"People tell me my hats are a blessing, but the blessing is being able to do for others," said Lyke, a former teacher with two daughters and two sisters-in-law who often supply her with yarn.
Lyke's supply of knitting materials and patterns is so extensive that she has chosen to convert her bedroom into a storage room and instead put her bed in the living room of her apartment at Luther Community Manor. Occasionally she sells some of her hats, but whatever money she makes goes right back into yarn purchases.
Her favorite types of yarn are Red Heart Super Saver and Caron Yarn, but she gladly accepts any and all donations, including from a local woman who recently read about her efforts online and stopped by her apartment complex with a large donation of yarn.
Lyke tries to knit at least one hat a day, but sometimes she'll make as many as three or four. She tries to ensure that no two hats end up looking alike, and consequently has created many of her own patterns.
"It's fun for me," she said. "I try not to make them same. I like them all to be different, so that people are not walking around seeing themselves in other people's hats."
There was a big push to finish a large supply of the hats in time for Christmas giving, and now that the holiday season is behind her, she is working on several personal items for her grandchildren, including a "Rapunzel" hat for a granddaughter and a dragon hat for a grandson. In all, Lyke's family includes six children, 17 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Lyke also belongs to several knitting groups through Facebook, where she has been able to network and help others with their knitting projects. If she needs help with a particular project, often the group members will pitch in to assist her as well.
"They are just wonderful groups," Lyke said. "They are the most giving people. The whole bunch of them are into charity stuff."
Among the projects undertaken by her Facebook groups were the making of hats for the children of Newtown, Conn., impacted by the recent mass shooting of kindergarten students and teachers. They also made hats for people in Manhattan, N.Y., who were left homeless after Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast in the fall.
"As the need comes in we take care of it," Lyke said. "The networking that goes on you just wouldn't believe. It's amazing. If I need help, so many people come and volunteer to help. It's absolutely mind-boggling."
Besides the hats, she also does other sewing or craft projects such as sweaters and handmade lace. But the hats are her first love, and something she plans to never stop making.
"My bedroom looks like a yarn store, but it is a lot of fun," Lyke said. "I will do hats forever."