Written by Daphne Liu
Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Adriana DiBenedetto
Each year before Christmas, Tzu Chi volunteers in New York hold a winter distribution, providing warm clothing and other essential supplies. Thanks to a Tzu Chi volunteer known as Aunt May Tai, who at 80 years of age knits hundreds of items per year for the distribution, the sincere love and care could indeed be felt by all during this difficult time.
One hundred blankets and five hundred scarves and hats are completed and donated to Tzu Chi every year courtesy of Aunt Tai, and her hats and scarves are the most loved items distributed by Tzu Chi every winter. “It usually takes me two days to knit one,” said Aunt Tai. “Apart from eating and exercising time, I’m mostly knitting these.”
Hoping to help overcome the challenges of the past year together as a community, many more people donated supplies to Tzu Chi for the distribution as well.
A Tzu Chi volunteer named Ashley Wang smiled upon seeing the handmade hats, blankets, and scarves, saying, “Every year she (Aunt Tai) says ‘it’s almost the holiday season. Would you like to come and pick it up?’ I’ll say yes, plus our Tzu Chi volunteer who runs a sweater factory would send over the leftover yarn to Aunt Tai.”
Aunt Tai previously experienced a minor stroke. She took on knitting as an activity to help with rehabilitation, and has continued making the beloved handcrafted items for over 25 years. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, she continues. “I’m blessed by the Buddha, my eyes are still very good, it’s good as hand rehabilitation, and my mind is clear, too.”
Another generous donor, Yasha Pandohie, noticed on Tzu Chi’s website that Tzu Chi would be collecting winter clothes for a distribution event. On her birthday, she invited family and friends via social media to donate their winter clothes as a way to celebrate her birthday. “I know the pandemic has caused financial difficulties for many people. I am willing to do my best. As the weather is getting colder, I thought donating second-hand coats is a good idea.”
Sunil Pandohie, Asha’s father, is proud of his daughter’s thoughtful actions. “These coats are my daughter’s wish on her birthday,” he said. “She hopes to do something for the community.”
This winter, COVID-19 cases continued to surge, and the United States had its coldest February in more than 30 years. Tzu Chi’s Northeast Region held its winter distribution after two consecutive days of heavy snow, and the winter items were profoundly appreciated.
“That scarf fits you well! It will keep you warm,” said a volunteer as an older guest considered which color would suit her best. The volunteer wrapped the scarf around her, and they spoke joyfully like a family. Fortunately, the snow that accumulated on the road did not prevent the residents from obtaining their fresh fruits and vegetables, and guests were grateful for the winter clothes and new quilts donated by the manufacturer.
Ms. Huang recently immigrated to the United States from Fuzhou, China. During the pandemic, she’s been thankful for the essential relief Tzu Chi provides. The quilt she has been using for many years is worn and not warm enough for the cold winter nights in New York, so Ms. Huang was also very happy to have received the brand new quilt from Tzu Chi’s event.
Every year, Tzu Chi volunteers also deliver winter clothes to long-term care facilities. In order to uphold the health of their residents, however, nursing homes could not allow visitors or nonessential workers to visit during the pandemic. Although Tzu Chi volunteers were unable to accompany the elderly residents during the holidays, the donations infused with care from the community had been delivered as usual.
Tzu Chi volunteers are deeply moved and appreciative of all the loving donations received for this distribution event. We sincerely hope that, together, this cycle of kindness can continue to grow, and bring relief to more individuals in need.