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Meet the Kamloops woman who wraps trees with scarves for the needy

Cathy Duvall of Kamloops holding her cat, Missy, in front of hundreds of balls of yarn.

Every winter when temperatures plummet in Kamloops, one senior lady bundles up and trudges along the Tranquille corridor wrapping homemade scarves for the homeless around city trees.

Despite an injured wrist and mobility issues, Cathy Duvall has been crocheting warm scarves and toques by the hundreds and decorating the trees with them for two decades.

“I don’t do as many toques because they are harder to make, with my scarves I do a basic stitch and I can whip one up in two hours.”

It isn’t because someone is paying her to do it, or because she has nothing better to do, or even because she has experienced homelessness herself.

Duvall simply finds joy in giving, and like the threads of yarn she carefully crochets together, her acts of kindness has woven her community together across so many winters, providing warmth and human connection.

“One winter I was out hanging scarves and a man in a wheelchair wanted one, but he wasn’t able to lift his arms very high,” she said. “I wrapped one around his neck for him and he gave me a big smile back.”

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Duvall said when she is out hanging the scarves, people honk as they drive by and many stop by to chat with her.

“I’ll offer them a scarf,” she said. “Putting smiles on people’s faces and giving them that human connection is what it’s all about.”

“I love how festive it makes the trees look, but it doesn’t take very long before they are bare again.”

Duvall grew up in Kamloops in a challenging home she prefers not to speak about and raised her two kids here. She is now a proud grandmother of four.

She lives alone in a small, cozy apartment with her cat, Missy, surrounded by all different colours of yarn, family photos and artwork from her grandkids.

Her means are small — she lives paycheque to paycheque — but her heart is full.

There is never a shortage of donations of yarn from others in the community who want to participate.

“Two years ago my SUV was ceiling-to-floor full of yarn,” she said. “These people are donating from the heart to help other people out. They don’t have time to do the crocheting, but they want to be a part of it.

“One lady gave me ten chocolate bars to put out with the scarves and ever since I’ll go buy oranges or something to add. For Halloween I put out a bucket of chocolates and oranges and saw people enjoying them.”

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When asked if she has ever received a complaint about her project, Duvall said no, but last year, someone lit several scarves on a tree on fire, leaving only burnt scraps on the pavement.

“I feel sorry for the person who did that,” she said. “I guess that person was either harmed or was homeless at one point in time. Sometimes people who overcome hard situations or addictions can turn around and be the harshest judges.”

Duvall’s kindness project started two decades ago when she was carrying a few handmade scarves and saw two girls shivering at an intersection. She gave them scarves and hasn’t stopped crocheting since.

When she isn’t out decorating trees, Duvall works on smaller crocheting projects she passes out to ‘bring smiles’, and spends time being a grandma. 

“When my kids were knee high to a grasshopper, we made gingerbread cookies and now I do that with my grandkids, so we’re getting ready to do that soon.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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