For Edna Doudney, 96, from Independence, the best way to serve people is through two knitting needles and a ball of yarn.

For Edna Doudney, 96, from Independence, the best way to serve people is through two knitting needles and a ball of yarn.
“I feel good to know that I’m helping somebody. Old people don’t have much to do physically, they can’t,” she said. “They just sit in a chair all day, and I don’t want to do that, I’m not going to. It feels good to know that I’m worth something, I can be productive.”
For the past four years Doudney, who turns 97 in July, has used her favorite hobby to knit more 400 caps for children on Native American reservations across the United States. She is a part of the Knit-A-Cap program where about 100 knitters from all over the country use their knitting talents to keep Native American children warm.
“Not to have a play on words here, but it’s a loose-knit volunteer effort here,” said Lana Shaughnessy from the Bureau of Indian Education.
The program was started 50 years ago when a doctor and psychologist from Vassar College noticed Native American children got a high number of ear infections because of uncovered heads in the cold. They began knitting caps for the kids, their friends started helping, and soon it spread across the nation. They partner with the Department of Education-Bureau of Indian Education to distribute the caps to elementary schools on more than 50 reservations. Last year they sent more than 2,000 caps.
 Doudney’s pastor, the Rev. Sally DeMasters from Northern Boulevard United Methodist Church, recently dedicated 115 of Doudney’s caps before they were sent to the children. She’s in awe of Doudney spirit of service.
“That’s what’s so inspiring to me, that she’s serving others and serving God instead of serving her age or her ailments,” she said. “It seems just so amazing to have a woman of her age doing so much. Not all people are that healthy or that willing as she is.”
Doudney wasn’t always in such good health. Four years ago she had stomach surgery and her daughter, Cathy Decker, wanted to find something to take her mind off her ailments.
“Her body just started getting to where it wasn’t so good and she was in the hospital. I talked to the people at (Knit Craft) and this was something we thought she could do just a little of,” Decker said. “To be honest it was kind of like busy work, but she turned it into something (else). Her hands are arthritic but she still does it because she knows someone is getting some good out of these caps... There’s times when she doesn’t feel really well but she seems like she has a mission and she’s going to do it.”
Rita Wilson from Knit Craft never thought Doudney would be so dedicated to Knit-A-Cap.
“No, not at all... I really didn’t think she’d knit that much but she does... It inspires anybody to think that at 97 she knits as well as she does and can coordinate her colors as well as she does,” she said. “I made the remark ‘I hope I can knit as well as Edna does at her age’ and one of the girls said ‘We have to get to 97 first’ and that’s the truth.”
Serving others is important to Doudney. She was a hospital volunteer for 25 years and knits for anyone and everyone who asks. She’s knitted clothing for hospitals, clothing drives, and for children at Christmas. Decker said her mother has such a strong desire to serve because she knows what it’s like to have a rough life and doesn’t want others to have similar experiences. She lost her father at an early age, grew up in poverty and lived through the Depression.
“She had a very, very hard childhood... it (was) a battle to keep your head above water and food on the table. I think people who had to fight or scramble for everything, they have a different outlook on the situation today... You couldn’t have gotten any poorer than her family, and I don’t know how they survived.”
Doudney never thought she would ever knit so much in her life.
“Not in my wildest dreams,” she laughed.
It does have its benefits, though.
“It makes me feel really good because I’m able to do it. I’m still able to be on my feet and I can use my hands. And my brain works... sometimes,” she said with a laugh. “I’m doing something that is useful, I’m not sitting around reading novels and watching television.”
She plans to keep those needles clicking for a long time.
“As long as I’m able or until I get discouraged. I’m not planning on getting discouraged, so I just take it a day at a time,” she said. “I feel like that I’m living to do something for somebody else and I can’t do anything much physically but I can do this knitting and I just think God wants me to do something. He’s kept me here this long.”