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'I call them my happy hookers': Sask. woman leads thriving group of helpful knitters

Josie Stroeder (left) organizing one of the many quilts made by her group, the Humboldt & Area Guardian Angels.(John Flatters/CTV News) Josie Stroeder (left) organizing one of the many quilts made by her group, the Humboldt & Area Guardian Angels.(John Flatters/CTV News)
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This month’s CO-OP Hometown Hero took a small community service group in Humboldt from nearly disbanding to more than 50 members and growing.

She leads a group of Guardian Angels who brighten people’s day all around the province with their knitting, crocheting, and quilting skills.

When Josie Stroeder lost her husband, her friends suggested she join a local group to stay active in the community.

While she was hesitant at first, her kids convinced her to give it a try. And it didn't take long for her to jump in with both feet.

“My two kids were with me and they said, why would you say no,” said Josie Stroeder, leader of the pack with the Humboldt & Area Guardian Angels. “Dad would want you to drive around and deliver it, that’s what he would have done. He loved driving around, and I thought it over and phoned them back. I said when’s the next meeting? They said tomorrow, I said I’ll be there.”

Now she’s the leader of the pack, and she’s recruited members to grow the group from six to 56 Guardian Angels.

“I hate to say it, but I call them my happy hookers,” said Stroeder with a laugh. “They’re a bunch of happy people that are enclosed in their homes and it gives them a purpose.”

With their combined skills and Stroeder’s energy and leadership, the Guardian Angels knit, crochet, and make quilts by the trunkload. They hand them out to a wide range of individuals and organizations around the province.

“Children’s hospital, cancer care, all places that can use what they make,” said Stroeder, who adds they are familiar faces at Ronald McDonald House. “At Ronald Mcdonald House, they open the door for us.”

With more than 30 deliveries in 2023 and plans for around 30 this year, the many hands of the members make light work.

“I crochet blankets and a few scarves, but I also do a lot of legwork for my sisters,” said Barb Dale, who lives north of Plunkett. She picks up items from her sisters in Wynyard and Watson and daughter in Regina. “It’s usually the back of the vehicle and I bring the goods to Josie and she distributes them to whoever needs them.”

While the recipients of the items are appreciative, newcomer to Humboldt Shirley Ulmer says she and the Guardian Angels get as much love back as they give out.

“It doesn’t only bring comfort to the ones that receive it,” said Shirley Ulmer, who met Stroeder three years ago and joined the group. “It also brings a lot of comfort to the ones who are making it, and that’s why I enjoy making the quilts.”

“Seeing the love and enjoyment of getting this stuff from us, they really appreciate it,” said Joan Mollenbeck, Josie’s delivery helper.

The energy Stroeder brings to the group is felt by the members too.

“I find it a real privilege to be a part of this group, Josie is an awesome leader,” said Ulmer. “Keeps the winter shorter, something to do, and I thoroughly enjoy it.”

“Josie is to be commended for the work that she has done for this group,” said Dale.

But Stroeder shares the limelight with all the members of the group.

“That's why I got all my friends to come here today, I didn’t want all this by myself,” said Stroeder. “It’s because of them.”

Congratulations to CO-OP Hometown Hero Josie Stroeder and her Humboldt & Area Guardian Angels.

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