2016 CITIZEN OF THE YEAR HONORABLE MENTION: Bear Lake woman knits hats for Manistee County kindergarten students

Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of articles that will lead up to the naming of the 2016 Manistee News Advocate Citizen of the Year. The public nominated citizens who they felt had made a contribution to the community in the past year. Today we are featuring Carlina Breitner who was one of the people earning honorable mention status for making wool hats for kindergarten students in the county schools.

MANISTEE — There are two kinds of people in this world — those who see things that need to be done and those who actually do something about it.breitner

Bear Lake resident and former Manistee Area Public Schools special education teacher Carlina Breitner is one of those people people who doesn’t hesitate to step up and make a difference. Thanks to her actions, there will be many kindergarten students throughout the county whose heads will be warm this winter due to the hats she has knitted for them.

Breitner said the idea came to her while working as a special education teacher at Madison Elementary School.

“My mother was an Alzheimer patient and she used to crochet lots of afghans and my father gave me all her yarn at one point,” said Breitner. “My grandson was in kindergarten class and at that time I noticed they needed hats for the kindergarten students. When I was at Madison I started making hats and giving them to the kindergarten students.”

What started as a one-by-one hat making process grew into a much larger effort.

“This year I made hats for all the public schools kindergarten classes,” she said. “It was about 220 hats I made this year. I average about 10 hats a week and in the summer I don’t do that many, because I live on a farm and do those types of things, but in the winter I do the hats.”

Breitner said that once the Christmas season passes she begins working on the hats for the next year’s class.

Onekama kindergarten teacher James Kudlack was one of the people who nominated Breitner. He explained why he felt she would be a good candidate for citizen of the year.

“As a kindergarten teacher, I met Carlina last year when she made a hat for each child in my room,” said Kudlack. “I then found out that she has made a hat for all the kindergartners in Manistee County. She volunteers in her church and has served as a EMT first responder at Maple Grove Township.”

Madison teacher Allison Veine agreed that Breitner’s project is one that everyone at her school enjoys and benefits from.

“Carlina has been doing it for us for several years and the kids love it,” she said.

Kindergarten students from Madison Elementary School proudly show off the knitted hats that former teacher Carlina Breitner knitted for them. Breitner knitted more that 250 hats for kindergarten students throughout Manistee County this year.

Kindergarten students from Madison Elementary School proudly show off the knitted hats that former teacher Carlina Breitner knitted for them. Breitner knitted more that 250 hats for kindergarten students throughout Manistee County this year.

Breitner said that last year she mentioned to some people who knew about her project that she was in need of yarn and they began donating it to the hat effort. The donations allowed her to keep the project going.

She said the hats are extremely warm and the children really respect them.

“I enjoy doing it and the kids at Madison call them their ‘Madison hats,'” she said. “They leave them in their lockers at the end of the day and only wear them out on the playgrounds. I love doing it and will continue doing it as I am able.”

She said the project is now carrying even more meaning to her in the upcoming year.

“I have 11 grandchildren and sometimes when one of them is in a kindergarten class I will go in and talk with them about it,” she said. “I have one that is in pre-school this year and will be in kindergarten next year at Onekama.”

Breitner said she has one pattern that she does with whatever kind of yarn that she presently has at her disposal.

“Each one is different and the boy’s hats are darker colors and if it is for a particular school I try and make sure a couple of the hats include their school colors,” she said.

Breitner said the nomination for News Advocate Citizen of the Year surprised her because she doesn’t expect any recognition for doing the project.

“I just do it sort of in honor of my mother, as my dad sort of started the whole thing when he gave me the yarn,” she said. “It’s very much a labor of love.”

The hat project has grown where it is something that goes beyond the kindergarten students. She said it goes to her spirit of helping the community.

“I have also given them to St. Raphael’s Church to their giving tree as well,” she said.  When people say they need  hats, I do it. I have always tried to help my community out. I have been a firefighter for Maple Grove and I just try to be a part of my church and community and this is just a way to do it.”

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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