Calling all knitters: Hats, mittens, scarves needed for Thanksgiving
A group of local organizations and individuals are once again working together to make the holidays a little brighter for needy people in Jamestown. Baskets filled with food purchased by the Rotary Club are distributed by St. Mark Church in the days immediately preceding Thanksgiving.
This year a group of local knitters organized by Kathy Rushton, and using yarn that comes in part from the St. Matthew’s thrift shop, will again contribute scarves, hats and mittens to the baskets.
“I’ve lived here for a long time, and I’ve supported the mitten basket project at Town Hall,” Rushton said. “People make mittens, hats, coats, dresses – whatever they want to make. It’s all donated to the needy in Newport. I got to thinking that we have needy here. People don’t tend to believe me, but we do.”
Three or four years ago, with that thought in mind, Rushton asked a few friends to help her out by making scarves. There have been at least 40 scarves knitted each year since then. The completed scarves are then given to Kathy Brownell at St. Mark where they are added to the annual Thanksgiving baskets that the church distributes to Jamestown people in need.
“I figure that if people need food, they need more,” Rushton said.
Last year Rushton decided to add hats to her donations. This year an unexpected gift led her to include mittens in the offerings for the first time.
Rushton placed an ad in the Jamestown Press just before Memorial Day saying that she had yarn to give away, and asked anyone who was interested to call her. As someone who crochets, she always has yarn around.
“A very nice lady ... called me and said that she could use some yarn,” Rushton said. “When I went to deliver the yarn, she gave me 26 pairs of mittens. It was unbelievable.
I was overwhelmed.”
There are currently several people, most of them Rushton’s friends, who are participating in her project. Last year approximately 46 hats and scarves were donated, and with the 26 pairs of mittens she had already received, she hopes to top that number this year.
“I don’t care who gets them,” Rushton said. “I’m happy that they’re being used. I hope that the people who get them appreciate them.”
Brownell of St. Mark Church said that the baskets are assembled by the Jamestown Rotary Club, and then distributed by the church. A total of 28 baskets were distributed last year. Recipients are chosen based on information that the church receives about people in need.
“Usually somebody will call the church and say that they have a neighbor or friend who might be in need of a basket,” Brownell said. “Also, the Jamestown schools are helpful in identifying people who might be in need.”
The contents of each basket include a turkey, a bag of stuffing, cranberry sauce, fresh vegetables like squash, carrots and celery, a bag of potatoes, gravy mix, a pie, and some juice or soda. The Rotary purchases everything from McQuade’s Marketplace, where the items are assembled in boxes.
“Because St. Mark has a food pantry, we usually add a bag to each basket to supplement them,” Brownell said. “They’re usually not the typical Thanksgiving things. We might add a jar of peanut butter, a can of tuna fish or a box of cereal. We just add to it. Not that they’d use it on Thanksgiving, but usually if people need the basket they can use a little help.”
The baskets from St. Mark are distributed the Sunday before Thanksgiving. According to Brownell, the Salvation Army also distributes baskets, which go to people in low-income housing who are affiliated with the church community. Those baskets – there were approximately 12 last year – are distributed on the Monday before the holiday.
Brownell is happy to have the scarves, hats and mittens that Rushton provides to add to the baskets each year.
“It’s certainly a nice addition to it,” she said. “Sometimes we don’t know anything about the recipients other than a name, but the recipients are all from Jamestown. Occasionally our committee might realize that it’s going to a particular family that has children and we like to add the hats, scarves and mittens. We put them in the basket and tell them it’s a little extra to let them know that we’re thinking of them at the holidays.”
Rushton said that anyone who is interesting in contributing to her charitable project should begin work as soon as possible because there isn’t much time left before Thanksgiving. She would like to have all contributions by Nov. 15, but if they’re not done by then she will still take the items for distribution at Christmas time. Rushton can be reached by telephone at 423-0926.