News: Artistic Kaneohe resident gives back to MCB Hawaii
Story by Christine Cabalo
MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - When Patricia Phillips decided to help those in need at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, her solution was in the bag.
The 84-year-old creates shopping bags, purses and other handmade items to support the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and the Wounded Warrior Project, Inc. She sells her homemade items in the lobby of The Lodge, Tuesdays and Fridays, donating all profits to the service member supportive organizations.
“This is a two-fold benefit,” said Phillips, who is also part Native Hawaiian. “I’m able to give these organizations money, and I have a reason to get up in the morning to get dressed. Otherwise, I get lazy.”
Phillips, a retiree from the hotel hospitality industry, started the project four years ago. She was inspired to help after getting encouragement from The Lodge’s management and seeing a NMCRS fund drive sign nearby. Her items have sold in boutiques and in Waikiki hotels, but Phillips hasn’t always sewn as well as she does now.
“I got an F in home economics,” she said. “My mother taught me embroidering and she’d poke at the loose stitches in the back of the piece ... But the only way to get better is really just to practice what you sew.”
After a lifetime of sewing, Phillips said the activity now keeps her arthritis at bay and relaxes her. The project is an extension of the crafting she’s done all her life, including traditional Hawaiian lei-making. She averages approximately five hours of sewing by hand each week, to keep up with demand.
“The purses and shopping bags are the most popular items but take the longest time to make,” she said. “I don’t always sell something when I come out, but for the days I don’t sell anything, there are days when we do really well and make up for it.”
Many customers are repeat buyers who love the designs and want to support those in need on base.
“I buy from her especially because it helps the wounded warriors,” said Leonor Decena Nordlund, who works at The Lodge and is a former Marine Corps spouse. “All the bags, towels and other items I buy, I usually give to guests.”
As more people have noticed her work, Phillips has expanded to paper crafts made in Zentangle, a style of relaxed drawing using repeating patterns. Card sales all go to Wounded Warrior Project, Inc., while sales from all the other crafts are split evenly between the two groups.
“I’m touched by what she does,” said Cheryl Milca, Kaneohe Bay branch director of NMCRS. “It amazes me that someone (takes) the time to make those cards and crafts. She’s doing it out of a passion and not for herself.”
The NMCRS awarded her a certificate of recognition, but Phillips said her reward is crafting a better life for others.