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Hastings senior makes hundreds of hats for people in need

Corrie Rezachek makes a variety of hats with different patterns and embellishments to be donated to people who need them. This hat will go to a child battling cancer. Kelsey Roy / RiverTown Multimedia

It takes a lot of perseverance to continue giving back when life throws you for a loop — or two, in the case of Hastings resident Corrie Rezachek.

Rezachek, who would rather be known as "a lovely old lady over 30," instead of her age, started making hats for people in need four years ago after she became a long-term resident at Augustana Care in Hastings.

A former resident of Cottage Grove, Rezachek began giving back to the community to fill free time when her children grew up. She spent many hours volunteering for her church and at various thrift stores.

"The kids had gotten bigger, and I wanted to do something worthwhile with my time," Rezachek said. "I met so many nice people and they had interesting stories. I really enjoyed that."

Rezachek lost the ability to stand due to post-polio symptoms, and her son and daughter couldn't provide her with the care she needed at home. The giving spirit didn't fade. She couldn't use her legs anymore, but she decided to put her hands to work.

"I see so many people who are cold and homeless, so I thought I could make hats for them," Rezachek said of when she first thought of the idea. First the hats went to a homeless shelter in St. Paul, but they have now spread farther. Rezachek's daughter, Judy French, delivers them to places such as women's shelters, the Children's Hospital, the Salvation Army and the American Heart Association.

But then Rezachek suffered a stroke, losing grip functions in her dominant right hand. At first, she was hesitant to continue making hats.

"I told Judy that I couldn't make hats anymore, and I gave her my loom," Rezachek said. "The first hat that I made after my stroke — I wouldn't have given that to anyone."

Rezachek worked with a therapist after the stroke to try to regain as much function in her hand as possible, but was unsuccessful.

When it came down to it, Rezachek asked French for her loom back, stating that she would start making the hats with her left hand.

"I realized that it was learn to do it with my left hand or quit," Rezachek said. She didn't want to give up on making the hats for those in need.

Switching to her left hand didn't slow her down at all either — Rezachek makes between 200 and 300 hats each year.

The yarn used to make the hats has been collected over many years from French.

"I thought I had the same creativity. She is helping me clean out my yarn stash," French said.

Some of the hats are simple, but many of them have multiple colors or embellishments on them — from the Minnesota Vikings' purple and gold to a delicate flower.

"I get to use my creativity and think about the next design. It also allows me to think about happy things. Why focus on anything in the past? It's not going to change," Rezachek said.

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