ROXBURY, NJ – Those aware of the sewing, knitting and crocheting prowess of Belle Schwartz could not be surprised when the long-time Roxbury resident was recently named a Joann Fabrics “Handmade Hero.”

If there’s one thing that matches the 76-year-old’s crafting skill it’s her desire to use that expertise to help others.

Schwartz, a Succasunna resident since 1977, has been involved in many non-profit, civic-minded and charitable efforts over the years. Many of those entailed crafting items sent – often across the globe – to comfort others, particularly children.

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“I don’t consider myself doing anything different from many people,” Schwartz said. “It’s a love that I have, and I just keep doing it.”

Schwartz, a life member of National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), West Morris Section, has been knitting and sewing intensely to help others during the COVID-19 crisis.

"Belle is an exemplary volunteer who uses her talent and creativity to enhance the lives of others,” said NCJW West Morris co-president Diana Grayson, who nominated Schwartz for the award. “Whenever there's a need in the community for something like fabric face masks or knit hats, she always comes forward to help meet that need.”

Grayson said the NCJW is “very proud of Belle” and hopes that the Joann Fabrics award “inspires others to follow her example."

Schwartz, a former member of the Kennedy Elementary School PTA and a volunteer for Roxbury Social Services and its Food Pantry, said the pandemic spurred her to do what she could to help.

"My knitting needles and sewing have been keeping me busy and sane during these challenging times, and I have truly enjoyed making these pieces and giving them away," she said

 Her work during the pandemic has been extensive:

 * She's sewn several hundred fabric face masks, which she donated to the Roxbury Public Library for distribution to seniors in the township and others in the community. In addition, she has sewn and donated masks for an elementary school in Millburn and for the school where her daughter teaches, in Lawrenceville.

 * She's made elastic extenders for the staff at Merry Heart Nursing Home in Succasunna, and she gives them out to staff at medical offices whenever she or her daughter has a doctor's appointment. She also offers them to schools for teachers to take, as needed.

 * She's made 250-plus small, hand-sewn, stuffed, fleece "feelie hearts" (an NCJW, West Morris community service project) that she's donated to Jersey Battered Women's Service and the Morristown Soup Kitchen (which includes one in each box of meals delivered to someone in need).

 * She made pillowcases that she's planning to donate to the Morristown Medical Center Cancer Center, to be given to children who are hospitalized.

 * She knit preemie hats for Capital Health in Hopewell (her grandson was born there and he was a premature baby, who came home with a donated hat), and St. Clare's Hospital in Denville.

 * She knit purple hats for Click for Babies.

 * She is currently making "ditty bags" for the Seamen's Institute. These bags each include a handmade hat, a scarf (which she has also made to be included in the bags), and sample-size toiletries. So far, she's made 26 sets.

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