Darlene Maddox is hard at work–her hands moving seamlessly and smoothly along the loom as she knits beautifully-colored hats. She’s got orders to fill and dreams to catch.
Darlene is 68 years old. She has a mild intellectual disability. But that’s not how her life is defined. She’s an artist, a hat-maker, a creative mind. Darlene attends OPTIONS day support in Lynchburg a few days a week. While some of her time at OPTIONS is spent knitting, she also branches out—doing crafts and crossword puzzles and socializing with her friends. When her day at OPTIONS is done, she heads back to her group home, Heart Havens. That’s where Darlene’s journey to become a businesswoman began.
Darlene had been crocheting butterflies and other odds and ends for years. Her mom was a seamstress and passed along the tradition. One day this past spring, Darlene pulled out a set of looms she had in her closet and got to work on her new passion project. Her first hat was small, a trial run, but it still caught the eye of her house manager, Lisa Sandvig. Soon after, Lisa found a perfectly-sized, colorful hat on her desk and knew this was something special.
These days, Darlene’s hands stay busy. This fall, she set up her own table at a local church fall festival. Darlene sold a dozen hats and took orders for more. She earned more than $100. And that money means something to Darlene. It’s not about the dollar amount. It’s about the independence.
“I want to make my own money,” said Darlene.
Darlene’s support system says the hatmaking is a work of passion and pride, for a woman whose life hasn’t always been easy.
“We all like to know that we’ve done something, and we’ve done it well,” said Lisa.
Darlene is a woman of few words. She’s sometimes shy. But as she watched Lisa put a hat on, proof of all her hard work, she couldn’t stay quiet.
“Do you like to see me wear my hat?” asked Lisa.
“Yeah,” said Darlene, breaking into a smile and letting out a loud laugh.
Darlene is currently working on completing more hat orders. If you’re interested in one of her hats, you can contact the Lynchburg OPTIONS day support center at 434.525.9060.