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A season for gifts of warmth

In January, Sister Marie Cella placed a small ad in the St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church bulletin.

Calling all knitters and crocheters, it said. Would you be willing to make lap covers or booties for elderly people?

Cella, who heads an outreach group that ministers to 13 local nursing facilities, got an amazing response. Volunteers got out their yarn and made more than 260 of the comfy, warm items.

"One (knitter) who is in her seventies said, "Sister, this has given me new life,' '' Cella said.

Cella's own nephew donated $500 for socks for male patients and a large chain store donated 250 stuffed animals.

She and her helpers bought Christmas bags and tucked the holiday gifts inside.

On Monday morning, Cella and a friend dressed as Santa delivered the first batch of handmade goodies to residents at East Bay Nursing Center in Largo.

"As soon as you walk in and talk to them, they light up,'' she said.

Eileen Schulte can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or