The basics: Paula Savino, 68, of Fresno is a retired social worker for the state of California. She worked many years in Porterville and Fresno. She also is an usher at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church at the Mass at 5:15 p.m. Saturdays.
What she does: An avid Bee reader, she crochets blankets mainly for pets and their owners that she reads about who touch her heart. She especially likes to crochet blankets for homeless people with dogs or people who do good deeds for the homeless or seniors. She dates every blanket she makes in a journal. Since July 2012, there are 236 entries.
Why she does it: She believes it is part of God’s plan for people to help others, including animals. “If you have a talent, you have to share it with others,” she said. She prays for the pets, their owners and others as she crochets. “I can’t do anything; God can,” she said. St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and the environment, is “my confirmation,” shes said. To personalize the gifts, she attaches a handwritten note to the blanket for the recipient.
The turning point: While growing up, Savino enjoyed working with her mother and father at the family business, Friant Trading Post, which had many customers who were poor. She helped keep track of bills owed. “One day, my mother (Grace E. Savino) said, ‘Paula, tear up the receipts of that woman; she has five kids and it’s hard for her.’ ”
When Savino was in her late 30s, a grandmother, Vincent Spano, taught her how to crochet. She had no interest. “I said, ‘Grandma, what am I going to do with this?’ ” But she learned anyway.
Now, Savino knows. She has combined a heart of compassion with the skill of crocheting to brighten the days of others. Pets included.
Details, details: Savino’s blankets — usually 25 inches by 25 inches — feature nine “Granny Squares” with a color theme. It takes about 45 minutes to crochet a square. She prefers to use Red Heart Super Saver yarn in greens, reds, browns, blues and other colors.
She was very busy in August. She crocheted blankets for the subjects of Bee feature stories published a week apart. One was about a Clovis cat, Marlee, who is over 24 years old. The other was about Charlie DeGrange, 8, a Fresno boy battling an incurable brain tumor.
What others say: Dr. Kelly Weaver is hospital director of Fresno Pet Emergency and Referral Center and owner of Victor E. Bulldog II, the official Fresno State mascot and recipient of a Savino blanket. Weaver says: “She’s very talented and a quick seamstress. But her biggest asset is her smile. It lights up a room. You just want to give her a bear hug. When she came in here, Victor E. hopped in her lap.”
How you can help: Savino asks only that “people share their gifts with others.”
— Ron Orozco