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Meet Donna Aiken Durgin, Knitting Love at Carillon in Fuquay-Varina

Donna Aiken Durgin’s room resembles a knitting factory. Thirty neck scarves sit in a bucket and five afghans in her closet, waiting to be given away as part of her mission to spread good cheer at Carillon’s Fuquay-Varina facility. The Akron, Ohio native estimates she has given away 50 scarves and an untold number of afghans the past two years.

“It’s something people enjoy,” Donna said. “I give them to all my family and anybody I know who likes things like that. It soothes me. I feel like I’m doing something and know somebody’s going to get something out of it.”

Durgin took up crocheting when her son and daughter were infants, fashioning them booties, sweaters and other items. She never dreamt it would turn into a lifelong hobby and a way to help others in her golden years.

She doesn’t just give away scarves, though. Durgin lends a listening ear when others need someone with whom to share their heartaches, problems or fears.

Her informal counseling role comes naturally since she has overcome considerable sorrow herself.

The first tragedy struck when her older sister died in her late 20s and left behind two children. Then Durgin’s husband, Jim, died in his early 40s when he went next door to help a neighbor who had gotten stuck in his well. Tragically, both men wound up losing their lives.

Two close losses would be enough to last anyone a lifetime. Then came a third. A mysterious illness struck Donna’s daughter, a mother of two. A couple weeks later, the young woman was gone.   “It seems like it cuts off part of your life,” Durgin said. “That’s the pain inside that gets to you.”

It was especially poignant since her children were two of the main reasons she was able to withstand the grief of losing her husband. She had taken Jim’s death pretty hard at first, but then realized her children needed a presence of stability and security. “I tried to be sad when I was in my own room at night and could release it,” Durgin said. “When my daughter died, it took me quite a while to get over that. Still, I had my son (Don) to take care of, so I had to brush it off.”

A lifelong Akron resident until her recent move to North Carolina, Durgin also left behind a group of old friends when she left northern Ohio. Her new friends in Furquay-Varina have helped her with that adjustment, particularly Activity Director Nicole Young.

“Nicole is a fabulous lady,” Donna said. “I’m not sure how happy I would be if she weren’t here. I feel like she’s made me a friend and I feel good about that. I was so used to having friends around in Akron and down here I had to make new friends.”

When she’s not crocheting, Durgin doesn’t watch television. Instead, she prefers to tend her ferns and other house plants, attend Carillon’s group activities, and visit with Don and his wife, Terry. Terry helped decorate her room with a purple bedspread and other touches of home that brighten Durgin’s outlook. She defines happiness as “freedom of the mind,” where she’s not burdened by worries.

“I feel very good right now,” Durgin said. “I’m glad I’m healthy enough that I can do what I want to. You usually don’t find people at 88 who can get up and go like I can. I’m glad that God has given me the option to do this.”

Posted in Assisted Living, Resident and Community Life, Sage Stories Tagged , , , , on September 22, 2016

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