2010 Flashback: Hand puppets sow Olympic patriotism

Mentally, physically disabled make money selling mitt-covers

With the 10th anniversary of Vancouver hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics upon us, we are looking back at some of the stories that were making the news in the Courier during those 17 days in February.

This story was originally published Feb. 10, 2010

Vancouverites who can’t get or don’t want the collectable 2010 Red Mittens have an alternative in red Maple Leaf hand puppets sewn by people with disabilities.

A local society that helps people with mental and physical disabilities stay busy and earn money is selling Maple Leaf mitt-covers for $5.95. Roughly half the proceeds go to the sewer, whether the felt hand puppets sell or not.

“I think all people will like them for the Paralympics… and go to the Olympics,” said Rosa Chan, who’s hand sewn 40 Maple Leaf hand puppets over the past month.

Chan, who struggles with a physical disability and whose speech can be difficult to understand, said living alone gets boring. Craft projects keep her busy. The woman who’s in her early 50s has sewn crafts for the 3H Craftworks store on West Fourth Avenue in Kitsilano for 10 years.

Joanne Ogilvie, executive director of 3H Craftworks, says the society didn’t create the cheery mitts to supersede the $10 Vancouver 2010 Red Mittens, the net proceeds of which go to supporting Canadian athletes. Rather, the hand puppets extend the society’s Canada line of hand puppets, which include those shaped into Mounties and beavers.

They sell well around Canada Day, and loyal customers send 3H Craftworks’ goods abroad. Three women have been stitching maple leaves for the past month. They finished 80 as of Feb. 2.

Ogilvie believes these three aren’t that excited about the Olympics.

“They just want something to do,” she said. “None of them will be going to the Olympics because they can’t afford any of the games or anything.”

The non-profit that started as the Handicrafts for Homebound Handicapped Persons Society in 1966 provides materials, prototypes and equipment to and pays 80 clients who cut, sew, glue and knit.

Forty active volunteers, including one woman who’s 98, help the society by cutting out shapes for hand puppets that cover a wide range of jobs — nurses, police officers, bus drivers, chefs and construction workers — each week. 3H Craftworks also sells felt story boards, baby and children’s clothing, Christmas decorations and sock monkeys.

Clients have just created sock monkeys decked with white and red Maple Leaf emblems, Ogilvie noted. 3H Craftworks’ clients used to be mainly people with physical disabilities but their makeup has shifted over the years to more clients coping with mental health problems. Clients complete projects at their own pace.

“They feel really good when they see that people have bought them,” Ogilvie said.

Maple Leaf hand puppets are available only at 3H Craftworks, at 2208 West Fourth Ave.

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