It's her form of therapy

Mary Reed has a basket of bracelets ready for packaging.

I was given a cute pair of crocheted slippers a while back. “Just pull out the back and tug them on. They’re really comfortable,” I was told.

She explained the process in making them. “Not very hard if you know how to crochet,” she said. “Just start out with a chain three then do double crochets.”

Of course after crocheting them nearly 40 years, she says she can almost do it in her sleep. When her hands are not busy with a hook and yarn, she threads beads for what are called Jesus prayer bracelets.

For Mary Reed of Boone, these projects are therapy. Not only do busy hands help pass lonely hours, but she receives immeasurable gratification from giving. Reed recently donated 20 pairs to first through fifth graders at Moulton Elementary School in Des Moines. Forty pair were shipped to a homeless shelter in Council Bluffs.

“Mother had cancer in 1975 and 1976. Night after night I would sit with her at the hospital. I crocheted to pass the time.  You just can’t sit and do nothing. Nurses would stop by and ask to buy a pair. Patients heard about them and they, too, wanted some.” 

Her hook and yarn accompanied her to the hospital several more times in the past year and a half when her son was having health issues. She keeps crocheting and the slippers always find a home. She lost count of the number she’s made,  a long time ago.

As for the “Jesus Bracelets,” “Oh my,” says Reed. “I’ve probably made over 100,000. Nine-thousand this year alone.”

These prayer bracelets offer spiritual therapy during the endless hours home alone, away from her husband who resides in a nursing home in Story City.

Reed began about 10 years ago making these for the Iowa District West, of which her local Lutheran church is affiliated. Each of the seven beads represents a Bible verse. An accompanying card guides you through the prayer.

Reed assembles the bracelets and packages them for delivery. A box of 3,000 were sent down to the IDW booth at this year’s Iowa State Fair. Another 500 to the Clay County Fair in Spencer and just under 500 to various churches.

Just how long can Reed keep up the pace? So far, her fingers reveal no sign of arthritis, but carpal tunnel in her wrists is becoming an issue.