A touch of home

Westphal has crocheted over 500 caps for soldiers

Grace Kirchner Leader Correspondent

Photo by Grace Kirchner Diane Westphal, of Clintonville, crochets caps that U.S. soldiers wear under their military helmets. She said it takes her about an hour to make each cap, and she has donated more than 500 since 2016.

Crocheting for the troops is what Diane Westphal, of Clintonville, does during her spare time. It’s her hobby. She and her mother learned to knit and crochet about 30 years ago. She said she prefers crocheting because it goes faster.

She is retired now after spending 30 years working at Hortonville Toy Company, Marion Plywood and Green Tree Health and Rehabilitation Center. While working at Green Tree, she became acquainted with Beth Mack, of Clintonville, who after learning she could knit, encouraged her to knit lap blankets at St. Martin Lutheran Church, which she did for a year.

Her sister, Robin Fassbender, of Clintonville, became acquainted with Mike Schlender, of Cloverleaf Lakes, while working at Specialized Products in Clintonville. Robin had been knitting caps for the military but had carpal tunnel that bothered her and she needed help. Mike’s mother, Eileen Schlender, of Clintonville, had a pattern for the military caps, and that is how it all started.

Westphal has now crocheted over 500 caps for the military since 2016. She uses four-ply yarn, and it takes her about an hour to make each cap.

“The caps that are worn under the helmets and come down over the ears can be any color except there must be about 4 inches of dark around the edge that may become visible from under the helmets. The caps help with muffling sounds and controlling the sweating,” Westphal said.

“The caps are for all veterans at home and overseas,” Eileen Schlender said.

Schlender manages to supply her with yarn that she gets donated from people that learn of their efforts. She prefers to knit and has also been creating caps for a long time. Caps are made of acrylic or wool.

The caps are boxed and shipped to Florida, where they are then shipped through Vets Appreciation Show Box to the soldiers. The caps are put in the toe of stockings that are filled with other things before they are shipped out.

The shipping costs can be expensive. The last box that was shipped to Florida cost $200. Often money is donated. Schlender and Westphal are members of Christus Lutheran Church and a special collection called “Change for Change” was taken to assist with the shipping costs.

“I got involved with knitting caps for veterans when my daughter, Mary, told me about it. She had seen it on the internet,” Schlender said.

The ladies say they have not heard from the soldiers, but they realize they would not have an address. It is a touch of home for the soldiers, and it warms the heart of Westphal and Schlender knowing they are doing their part in making the life of the soldiers a little easier though they are miles apart. According to Schlender, the caps are often given at Christmas.