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Yak and Yarn

Yak and Yarn Group
The women of the group, Yak and Yarn, talk and work on their knitting and crocheting at Grounds for Celebration café in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 8, 2023. Yak and Yarn is a group started by VA Central Iowa Health Care System’s recreational therapist, Jerra Buster, in May of 2023 (VA Central Iowa Health Care System photo by Sam Hircock.)

DES MOINES, Iowa-- Each Tuesday, a small group of Veterans meet at the Grounds for Celebration café to knit or crochet while sharing conversation and coffee.

Dubbed Yak and Yarn, this meet-up is an opportunity for camaraderie and a chance to engage in a shared hobby.

Its founder, Jerra Buster, a recreation therapist with the VA Central Iowa Health Care System, started the group wanting to provide a connection for Veterans to work on projects together. In May this year, Buster’s idea became reality and now has several attendees per week.

Buster graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a degree in recreation therapy before beginning an internship at VACIHCS in 2012 and eventually being hired on.

“The Veterans for sure led me to work [at VACIHCS],” said Buster.

Buster said that she had seen how much Veterans gave and wanted to give back to them, feeling she could not do what Veterans have done. Yet, Buster would go on to become a client systems technician in the Air Force, serving for over two years herself.

“These Veterans inspired me and told me I could be a part of the ‘club’ too,” said Buster. “So, that's another big reason I joined the military as well--all of the inspiration around here!”

While crocheting a square of an afghan blanket, Buster described how her own service has helped her connect with other Veterans and be able to understand military-related conversation as only Veterans and those serving can.

“My favorite part is the friendships and connecting,” said Tammy Reynolds, who served as a ground support equipment hydraulics mechanic in the Marine Corps. “We can talk about anything with each other. We have the commonality of the military. Stress related things that we have trouble with are often because of the military, so we understand each other. Nice to know that we all have that in common and we can all relate very well. I’ve made really great friends.”

With the women of the group, some who’ve knitted or crocheted since they were children and some just starting out, there’s a tangible sense of community and laughter to be shared.

“Knitting is just a stress reliever and helps with anxiety, and sometimes I can’t bring myself to do it at home,” said attendee Zoe Schorr, who had been a cyber operations officer in the Army. “So, it’s just nice to do it at a scheduled time and to get out of the house to do relaxing things and to be around other weirdos like me.”

Between sips of coffee, shared woes and stitches, Yak and Yarn is the place to be for Veterans looking for an easy way to connect with each other.


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