Oakland Park Kiwanis has begun many programs and projects, from providing meals for the homeless and senior citizens to canal cleanup. With each project having its own individuality and spark, the Ronnie’s Star Program is one project that has made Broward County warmer.
The program’s love for the Oakland Park community has been displayed through their numerous crocheted and hand-made items. Their made-with-love objects comfort those suffering from various ailments to even our brave soldiers, and their yarn has continued to stretch across the county.
In 2012, after the passing of member Ronnie Goldstein, Ronnie’s Stars became a signature project. Mrs. Goldstein would crochet blankets for children admitted to the Broward General Hospital with the assistance of other members of the Crochet Club.
After Ronnie’s passing, the club made the unanimous decision to keep her spirit and this initiative alive by forming Ronnie’s Star Program. Living in Oakland Park sat down with the Chair of the Ronnie’s Star Program Jean Nevin to learn more.
Nevin told us that Kiwanis had contacts at various non-profits, such as Broward Partnership for the Homeless, Broward Children’s Center, and Light of the World Clinic: “When we asked if they would like ‘comfort items’ for the children, the response was overwhelming!”.
Along with blankets both sewn or crocheted/knitted, Ronnie Stars team also knits or crochets hats and infant socks, sew cheery pillowcases, therapy dolls, fashion isolette covers, and crochet octopuses for newborns to grasp.
Kiwanis’ mission is to Change the World One Child and One Community at a Time. The Ronnie’s Stars program initially began with children in mind, but Jean emphasizes that “the big kids are important as well”.
The organization has supplied lap blankets, back pillows, and walker bags to the residents of Treemont on the Park Assisted Living Facility. Recently they have added scarves for the military and bead bags used by young cancer patients who collect a bead at each treatment.
At the onset of the pandemic, the team sewed countless masks for the community, and several hundred for staff at veterinary hospitals across the country. “Our members have sewn approximately 3000 pillow cases, knit/crocheted 800 blankets, and more than 700 infant hats“, says Jean Nevin.
When asked who could participate in this project, Jean couldn’t be more clear: “Can you sew, knit, or crochet? You’re in!”.
Much of the crafting is done by Kiwanis members individually, but the Crochet Club — an offshoot of Ronnie’s Stars – is made up of Kiwanians and members of the local community. “We meet once per week at a member’s home to work on projects, teach each other complicated stitches, and compare patterns”, she explains.
All together, there are approximately 20 active members of Ronnie’s Stars. Other Kiwanians donate or shop for yarn and fabric, or help to pack and distribute the completed items.
“It’s so important for us to be a part of our community, and that the community knows we care”, Nevin adds. From starting with just Broward General in 2012, the program has expanded its reach to Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, Children’s Diagnostic and Treatment Center, Central Broward Pregnancy Help Center, Pediatric Therapy Associates, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, Beads of Courage, along with the aforementioned Salah Foundation at Broward General, Broward Partnership for the Homeless, Broward Children’s Center, Light of the World Clinic, Treemont on the Park, and Operation Gratitude.
“Our hand-crafted items give comfort to an ill child, an away-from-home soldier, a homeless mom, or a lonely senior”. Although the people who receive those items can’t always meet the Kiwanis crew, they can certainly feel the love put in each piece.
Nevin says Kiwanis is working close to capacity when it comes to helping non-profits, “but we would never say no to any nonprofit that asks us”, she adds. “If we are going to expand, it would be any other local nonprofits, especially those who are looking to help the children of our community. There’s always room for one more”.
The whole team at Kiwanis want the community to know that they exist, and that they care. “When someone gets a blanket or a pillowcase and there’s a tag on it that says ‘made with love by Oakland Park Kiwanis’, I want them to know who we are and that we cared”, Jean afirms.
The Ronnie’s Star Program has shown Broward County that something as simple as a crocheted blanket or a knitted scarf can make a difference in any community. With dedication and love, Ronnie’s Stars has the ability to bring people together and shine its light on those who may be struggling. The program is equally inspiring and beneficial as they teach us that kindness is just a blanket away.
Cyane Wheeler is a Multimedia Production’s student currently studying at Florida Atlantic University. After graduating from G-Star School of the Arts in 2018, Cyane went on to intern at “Go Riverwalk Magazine” in Fort Lauderdale. There she wrote two articles before going off to study in Saint Augustine at Flagler College.
For a year Cyane worked towards her degree in Journalism while participating in various clubs dedicated to improving Flagler’s campus such as BSA (Black Student Association). Having to return home to West Palm Beach, Cyane searched for other ways to get the Journalism experience she craved by becoming a Freelance Photographer for a local paper known as “The Town Crier”.
Now in her spare time Cyane writes for an online and print publication across the globe called “The Chritical Magazine”.