WINONA, Minn. — Anything Myrtle Ziebell, 92, needs as she walks around Watkins Manor rests carefully in a large fabric bag hanging from her walker.
Within the folds of the handmade bag are usually tissues, keys, mail, fruit and anything else she comes across that she’d like to bring with her.
Before the bag, carrying items was a hassle — and dangerous. Ziebell juggled items in her arms while continuing to push her walker forward without always using two hands.
The story is the same for many Watkins Manor residents, for whom picking up any items dropped on the floor also isn’t as easy as it used to be.
Now they have nothing to worry about, thanks to Watkins Manor cook Chris Springer.
Springer saw the need about five years ago, and on her own time at home after work, began to make bag after bag from recycled materials and giving them free to residents.
Today, nearly every one of the 60 or so residents who uses a walker have her handmade bags.
“Now I’m a spoiled brat,” Ziebell joked as she sat with her walker and bag in front of her. “I don’t even try to walk around my bedroom without it.”
Even though there’s hardly a resident who still needs one, Springer continues to make the bags and stores them in a closet for nurses to hand out.
Right now she’s working on a floral-patterned bag from materials she bought at a thrift store.
“Oh, that’s pretty,” said Bernatte Scherbring, 93, as she picked out a purple pastel bag from a stack Springer had in her hand.
“That used to be one of my scrub tops,” Springer said with a laugh.
Scherbring already had a bag, but it was ripping at the seams. As soon as Springer saw that, she brought out the spare bags and vowed to sew it up.
Which worked out for Scherbring — she liked the purple bag better.
Scherbring transferred her items into her new bag. A pencil, which would have fallen through her built-in walker basket, some tissues, a rosary and a bag of M&Ms.
“That’s it besides crumbs,” Scherbring said, as she stared into the large bag.
Springer smiled, leaned over, and hugged her.