MANSFIELD -- Wrinkled fingers move rhythmically while knitting baby blankets, hats and sweaters. The pace isn't as quick as they once worked, but it doesn't matter.
"This is the first time that I've actually knitted something on a regular basis," said Shirley McLaughlin, a resident of Primrose Retirement Community of Mansfield.
She was joined by Mildred Blaney and Wanda Flor, each working on knitting projects at Primrose Retirement Community. The trio is part of a group called "Primrose Busy Bees," which dedicates time each week for arts and crafts. The projects are then donated to local entities.
Busy Bees was formed about a month ago, but Primrose residents have been doing various service projects long before the group was created, said Angela Gardner, life enrichment coordinator.
"I think it's good for their self-esteem," Gardner said. "They can still help, a lot of them. They may not be able to get out and do things like they used to, but it's good and it's good social time, too."
Residents have clipped coupons for the military, made dog biscuits and handkerchiefs for dogs at the humane society and dog pound, stuffed back-to-school bags and clipped tags for the New Store, among other things.
"I'm sure there's a group of people out there that think all we do is sit in a chair all day," McLaughlin said.
Flor started out by knitting hats for infants at Mansfield General about 25 years ago.
"I enjoy doing it," she said.
She used to sew her own clothes and make suits and sport jackets for her husband. "I've dabbled in I think about every craft," she said.
Resident Jeanne Hess is making a baby quilt using strictly scrap materials.
"I'm not going to buy anything to do this," she said. "I've made up my mind -- I've got to use all my scraps."
Hess "supervises" art classes at Primrose, which take place twice a month. She previously worked as a freelance commercial artist.
She encourages participation, despite claims from reluctant residents who say they don't possess any artistic talent.
"I just want to smack them when they say that," she said jokingly.
Some are scared to death of a paint brush, while others can't get enough.
"It's a little bit of both, but what I try to do is keep them trying," she said. "Nobody's perfect.
"You'd be surprised," she continued. "Some of them have some real talent. They don't really realize that, but I hope they stay with it because you never know."
She seeks to encourage the residents.
"I never tell them it's terrible even if it is," she said. "Because it might be terrible to me, but somebody else would like it."
Someday she hopes to have an art show at Primrose.
"I'm keeping some of their artwork because I know that sooner or later I want to show what they're doing," she said.
"They're all different. I've never found two alike."