The Community Center sends her restored dolls off to good homes and also helps others with winter gear.
WESTBROOK–If you have an old doll lying around, dust it off, get it to Joan Wescott and she’ll make a child happy at Christmas.
This week, Wescott’s restored dolls are being distributed from the Westbrook Community Center – currently a hub of holiday giving – to those who may be in need of a gift for a special youngster.
For the last few years, Wescott has refurbished dozens of dolls – knitting clothing and blankets and outfitting them with other accessories – and donated them to the community center in time for Christmas.
On Tuesday, she got a welcome surprise when she found out where this year’s collection of dolls is heading.
Maria Dorn, the director of community services in Westbrook, gave Wescott a recipients list that includes the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital and the Frenchtown Community Hub on Brown Street.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Wescott said. “That’s why I do it.”
And she does it all year long. Wescott said those who are familiar with her hobby bring dolls in to the community center, and she has friends who keep an eye out at local yard sales and flea markets.
This is the third year she’s brought her just-like-new dolls to the community center to be distributed. Dorn had been keeping some of the dolls in her office prior to holiday distribution, and said she was admittedly sad to see them go.
“Everyone who comes in my office picks them up,” Dorn said about the dolls.
Wescott said most of the dolls come to her without clothes and are either scuffed or dirty. But, she said, she doesn’t return them to the community center unless they look “brand new.” She spends the year knitting, and is constantly on the lookout for local sales for accessories like doll strollers. A pair of dolls in Dorn’s office Tuesday had matching strollers, which she said she bought at Target during a sale.
She’s also taken to various websites and found ways to remove paint or crayon stains and restore hair.
Recently, she said, she’s received more dolls representing different races other than Caucasian, which she said is fitting for Westbrook’s growing diversity. She said a number of the dolls of color she restored this year had already been taken from the community center.
“I knew they would go quickly,” Dorn said.
Wescott, 72, worked as a foster parent for decades, often with a number of childen in her home.
“So many have so little,” she said. “It makes me look forward to the holidays.”
Elsewhere in the community center on Tuesday, additional signs of holiday giving were easy to find.
The line for the Westbrook Food Pantry was long. The results of many food drives, including Westbrook High School’s “pack the pantry” initiative, could be seen this week.
In the former café space in the community center, Westbrook Neighbor to Neighbor, along with the community center, was hosting a cocoa and cookie social and distributing donated coats, hats and mittens to those in need. There were donated games, puzzles and small pieces of furniture, too. A few of Wescott’s dolls could also be seen leaving through the doors. Wescott had also recently knit a number of winter hats, which were part of the offerings.
Zoe Sahloul, the director the New England Arab American Association, was speaking with a few residents. She had reached out to many families who are perhaps new to Westbrook, and America, this year.
Organizer Kat O’Neill-Lussier, who started the Westbrook Neighbor to Neighbor Project, said by 11 a.m. Tuesday most of the coats and hats were gone. The event started at 9 a.m. Later in the day, she was posting on social media asking residents to donate more goods if they could.
She said donations came from all over, including Infiniti Federal Credit Union, which donated coats.
Volunteer Pat Bartky said most of the residents who had been in were taking warm clothes. Guests were allowed to take one coat per person in their family.
“It’s looked like Christmas Day for some of these families,” she said.
Joan Wescott sits next to a few of her restored dolls Tuesday at the Westbrook Community Center. Many of the dolls pictured will end up at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Portland.
Families flooded the community center Tuesday for a “cocoa and cookie social” where residents in need of warm clothing could choose from donated coats, hats and mittens. After only a few hours, most of the clothing was gone.