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Sweet Ladies mark 20 years of service

The Sweet Ladies of the Community are senior citizens who spend a lot of their spare time knitting, crocheting, making quilts and socializing together.

But some of them also spend plenty of time taking computer lessons, going bowling, playing the piano for church services, volunteering to work for community organizations, directing small theater productions, and contributing their talents to a wide variety of other activities.

The Sweet Ladies celebrated the 20th anniversary of their service to the community with a program and reception Sunday in the Doris W. Jones Family Resource Building operated by the Niagara Falls Housing Authority at 3001 Ninth St.

"The Sweet Ladies have been dedicated to 'giving back' to the community they love," said Patricia L. Barone, deputy executive director of the Housing Authority. "Every year, the Sweet Ladies donate lap quilts to residents of skilled nursing facilities in the area."

They also donated handmade quilts to children in the authority's prekindergarten program who did not have blankets for nap time.

Among the Sweet Ladies is Velma Mings, 69, a lifelong resident of Niagara Falls who spends about five hours a day Monday through Friday with the other Sweet Ladies in the resource building. "We really are active. We don't have to just sit at home," Mings said.

A friend invited her to join the group after she retired 14 years ago as a guidance and attendance secretary for the Board of Education. Since then, she has brought a couple more of her friends into the program and has become its coordinator. She also plays the piano two Sundays each month in Grace Community Church on Willow Avenue, and she bowls every Thursday at Rapids Lanes, where her average is 139. Her best game is 223.

Another of the active Sweet Ladies is Carrie Mitchell, a retired home economics teacher who is president of the local chapter of Links, a newly elected member of the board of the United Way, a volunteer teacher at the city's former Girls Club, and director of short skits at New Hope Baptist Church on Buffalo Avenue.

"I just love teaching," Mitchell said with a broad smile. "A lot of what I do here is teaching, even though some of the other ladies don't even realize it. As a home economics teacher, I've shown them how to sew, how to measure and how to match."

The Sweet Ladies have been "providing service to seniors and children" since the original group of six women was founded April 16, 1991, by Helen Bittings. Their membership now numbers about 50.

e-mail: rbaldwin@buffnews.com