Alpine’s Sweeneys bring service to community |

Alpine’s Sweeneys bring service to community

by Virginia York

On Nov. 10 there were doings in Chambers Lane, chez Sweeney. It was the first annual sale of knitteds, attended by a jolly stream of locals and strangers, all, in short order, made to feel very much at home by Tom and Jane Sweeney. The proceeds of this sale went to the Reno Ronald McDonald house.

Jane learned how to knit when she was 10 years old from a patient aunt. Her interest in knitting has waxed and waned over the years and enjoyed an energetic resurgence when the couple moved up to the snow. Jane enjoys sitting in front of the fire, creating with needles and yarn. Five years ago she discovered felting. This process makes a sturdier product, produces a subtle blend of colors and is forgiving of mistakes (individual stitches don’t show). After giving her creations to family and friends, Jane started to sell them through the Hope Valley Store. Recently she decided to have a grand sale and contribute the takings to charity. Knitters from as far away as the East Coast who learned on the internet of Jane’s intention donated items such as hand-knitted children’s clothing to boost the stock. The sale raised $500. Tom and Jane also had the satisfaction of holding a soup kitchen event and raising $900 for Doctors Without Borders which was working with the victims of the Haiti earthquake three years ago. A fundraiser for hurricane Sandy survivors is in the works for January.

There are Ronald McDonald Houses all over the country, close to large hospitals with big pediatric departments which treat children with life-threatening conditions. The McDonald corporation constructed houses near the hospitals where families can stay while visiting their children. They ask for a donation of $10/night but contributions offset the expenses of relations who cannot afford the donation. The houses have apartments for families and family rooms where guests can gather and support each other.

Jane has a personal reason for supporting the Ronald McDonald houses. Forty years ago her 5-year-old nephew was diagnosed with cancer and died two years later. At that time she recognized the importance of affordable accommodations for the families of sick children. Jane then worked 20 years in hospice as director of volunteers and bereavement services, establishing close connections with families.

The sale included irresistible felted purses, scarves secured by intricate old brooches, draw-string bags for treasures and gifts, all at reasonable prices. Shoppers with armfuls of brightly colored hand-knitted items progressed to the check-out, manned by Tom.

Tom and Jane bought their Alpine County property in 1999. Tom designed the house, taking advantage of the beautiful mountain views. Tom has served on the Board of Supervisors since January 2009.

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Before moving to Alpine County, Tom worked as a machinist for seven years and taught machining for 27 years at Glendale Community College. Much of the instruction was given on an individual basis, addressing the need for the development of student-teacher relationships. He stressed the need for a general education and for the foreign-born to learn to read and write English to avoid being isolated in their new country. Additionally, Tom taught traditional machining, robotics, computer aided design, computer aided machining, metallurgy and mathematics during his tenure.

Tom emphasizes the necessity of board members to work as a team considering the good of the whole county, not just representing their own concerns or the preferences of their districts. He has upheld the need for looking at the big picture, the long-term, beyond our life-times. He has been willing to do his homework, researching topics of discussion prior to board meetings. One of his rules of thumb is “Don’t borrow unless you have to.” Words of wisdom from someone who has served on the board of a credit union for 32 years.

Following Don Jardine’s example, Tom held monthly meetings with his constituents, and established a monthly calendar of county events. During his term the board worked with the fire chief, Terry Hughes, to unite the county’s fire departments, saving money and increasing efficiency. Through Tom’s and Don’s efforts, high speed internet has become a reality in the county. Tom supports the increase of tourism in the county, hoping for more events and further efforts to beautify our town to attract visitors.

On his property Tom has horses and dogs and a shop containing hobby projects which will keep him happily occupied well into retirement.

Thanks, Tom, for your dedication to the county, and to you both for holding the charitable events.

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