Springfield, MO: Good Things Come From Garages

Troops      HH

Getting to know your neighbors here at Creekside is easy to do when they are as friendly and outgoing as Harold and Harriet Fritz. As soon as they moved here last year they fit right in to our Community. They always have time for a conversation or to lend a helping hand. As you read on, you will find out just how much of a “helping hand” they have.

Harold and Harriet will be celebrating 58 years of marriage in August. Their love began when they met in college. When Harold came home from the Service and made a trip to visit his sister at college, he was immediately smitten with his sister’s roommate which was Harriet. This introduction occurred in March and they were married the following August. Harold was employed by the United States Forest Service and they moved around often during his 30 year career. Most of their time was spent in Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan and Wisconsin. Harriet was a third grade teacher for a while and then did some substituting. Their son and daughter were her main focus for many years as they moved around with Harold’s job.
After the kids were grown and Harold retired they spent 16 years in Mesa, Arizona. The pollution and climate in Arizona did not bode well for Harriet’s health so they made a move to Nixa , Missouri.

The move to Nixa sent them on a search for a new “church” home. They became members of Redeemer Lutheran Church and soon became active in some of the church’s activities. If you know Harriet and Harold, then you know that there is no moss growing under their feet! They jumped right in and helped out where needed.  A combination of several things happened simultaneously, which in turn helped Harry and Harriet find their mission for their retirement years. First, Harriet was sitting in her office one day in 2009 passing the time with one of her favorite hobbies, crocheting. She was crocheting a cap. There was only one problem; she didn’t know who she could give it to. Harold suggested that she search the internet for groups that needed caps. Harriet found several sites for children who needed them but her heart-strings were tugged by the needs of our men and women in the service. Harold had been in the military so this was an important cause for both of them. Little did she know how her project would blossom? At the same time, a woman from church heard about Harriet’s efforts and asked her if she could make 50 caps for her husband who needed them for soldiers overseas. There must have been a hand guiding this project from above because the prayer list at church included many military personnel for which Harriet had been praying for. With this new found need for caps, Harriet decided that her praying for the troops was important, but she now had a way to make a real impact…crocheting wool caps for the troops! If you put all these occurrences together, along with Harold’s help and encouragement, a true service project was born.

At the end of 2009 this service project was organized by Harriet into “Work for Troops.” Harriet organized women from her church to knit and crochet wool caps, helmet liners and neck gators for our troops in Afghanistan and Kuwait. Soon the need and requests for these items became more than this small group could handle so Harriet and the ladies reached out to friends, family, and other church groups to help them fill the need. Harriet founded the website www.workfortroops to help organize the volunteers who were finding this project not only helpful to the soldiers, but also rewarding and fulfilling to themselves. Volunteers could go to the website to find the patterns, type of yarn to use, and where to send the finished items. The destination was the Fritz’s garage.
The crocheting and Work For Troops campaign is still very much alive in their home here at Creekside. Harold keeps things organized as the caps, slippers, helmet liners, and other items arrive from volunteers across the nation. Currently there are approximately 500 wool items in their garage in plastic tubs that neatly line the walls. Harold has become the shipping expert over the years. He can pack about 30 caps to a box which costs approximately $15.00 to ship overseas. He estimates they have shipped over 11,000 items since 2009!  Many skeins of yarn are donated and sometimes it is not wool, which is the desired type for the caps and slippers. Nothing however, is wasted. The other types of yarn are crocheted into caps for children overseas and for Native American children on reservations in the United States.

Harold and Harriet do not need or want praise for their efforts which have touched thousands of lives over the years. According to them their reward is reading the many letters of thanks that they receive from the troops. Work For Troops has become such a large and successful foundation that it was destined for some formal recognition and in 2011 that happened. In June of 2011, the Lieutenant Governor for the State of Missouri chose Harold and Harriet as recipients of the Lieutenant Governor’s Senior Service Award. This award promotes and highlights the tremendous impact Missouri’s senior citizens have on their communities. Their love and devotion to give back to the troops goes much further than our community. The hours they spend to help others is a blessing to thousands of men and women who help protect America in many places far and near.

Submitted By: DJ Halley, Cottage Life Enrichment Coordinator, Creekside at Elfindale, Springfield MO

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