Bright Spot: Grandmother makes thousands of hats, blankets for children in need

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — One double crochet and chain stitch at a time, these labors of love come together.

"I've done 1,030 hats and blankets, and then probably about another 1,000 individual hats."

They're all different colors and patterns, and each one made with love by Rita Thole for a baby in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Regional Medical Center.

"It is wonderful. We truly truly appreciate it and the parents love them," said Kelley Smith.

The babies are preemies and they're small. Some of them weigh about three to four pounds.

"Babies that little don't have things that little, so you know they need clothes that fit."

Thole's little hats and blankets fit perfectly. But it takes a lot of time and patience to create these handmade gifts.

Thole said each blanket takes about eight to 10 hours to complete.

"And we do let them know they handmade and it takes a lot of hard work and effort put into these hats and blankets for these babies."

Thole finds her materials at garage sales, uses gift cards she receives and coupons to buy her yarn. Looking at a stash of leftover yarn, she decided she'd help more children this winter.

"I thought with a coat you always need a hat."

So she made hats — 500 of them.

Bright and vibrant. Cool and casual. All different sizes for children in Memphis who will receive a coat from Tim's Coats for Kids campaign.

It took Thole 10 months to finish the hats.

But why does she do it?

"I have two healthy children and three healthy grandchildren, so it's just payback. Pay it forward."

This winter at least 500 children in Shelby County who may never meet will be bound by a warm gesture from this grandmother who just wants to give back.