Knitting club helps provide hats and scarves to housing insecure people

Nov. 18, 2020 | Sarah Heinonen

LONGMEADOW – The Storrs Library-run Novel Knitters club put their needles to work during the month of October to knit scarves and hats for housing-insecure populations.

From Oct. 3 to Nov. 7 people could utilize the curbside pickup to take bags with one or two balls of yarn each, and drop off finished knitted or crocheted cold-weather gear. Of the 95 parcels of bagged yarn that was distributed, the library received 128 finished donations, said Programming and Collection Development Librarian Becky Vitkauskas. The finished donations were picked up Nov. 12.

Vitkauskas said that the yarn was donated by Northampton-based Webs, a yarn company in Northampton. Novel Knitters worked in partnership with a campaign created by Isabel Baxter-Paris, an eighth-grade student at the Williston-Northampton School. Begun four years ago, the campaign chooses a park to fill with free hats and scarves for homeless people in the area.

Baxter-Paris was inspired by a chance encounter with Knitty City while on a trip to Manhattan, said Amy Baxter, Baxter-Paris’s mother. The group was working on a similar project for Central Park. “On the train home, she said, ‘Do you think I could do something like that?’” Baxter-Paris told Reminder Publishing.

The then-elementary school student reached out to Webs. “Webs put her on their podcast and people all over the country began sending in scarves,” said Baxter. “What started as four kids after school exploded.”

In its first year, Northampton’s Pulaski Park was chosen. This year, the hats and scarves will be placed in Court Square in Springfield.

“We have a couple hundred pieces, so we’ll tie them on lamp posts and benches and anywhere we can,” Baxter said. Each item has a tag attached that reads, “If you’re cold and you need this, please take it.”

With COVID–19, with even more homlessness, it was pretty hard to collect yarn, but [Baxter-Paris] was determined. Baxter said that they have had people who help with the campaign each year, including Novel Knitters.

“They’re always amazing,” she said of the knitting club. “It’s community at its best.”

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