Published: Thursday, October 4, 2007
Girard Unity Church Centre's knitters are 'clicking for a cause'
The handmade knitted items, along with prayers, go to people in need.
By LINDA M. LINONIS
GIRARD Grace Williams, the woman behind the Prayer Shawl Ministry at Unity Church Centre, hails from a family of knitters.
Her daughter, G. Patricia Williams-Jones, activities coordinator of the ministry, represents the seventh generation of knitters.
Williams, who has belonged to the church for a couple of years, said she saw information on a knitting project in a newsletter she receives and thought it would work at Unity. It has.
"And now we're a bit of history," Williams said.
"It's a national and international project," said Williams-Jones, who explained that the original ministry started in 1998 at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn. The founders, Janet Bristow and Victoria Galo, wanted to knit and crochet items for those in need of prayer and comfort.
The group at Unity started small, with two other people along with Williams and her daughter, at the first session in February 2006. The number of participants fluctuates, and it has attracted as many as 29 knitters to a meeting.
The knitters have shown that needlework, often stereotyped as a pastime of elderly women in rocking chairs, is just another example of how women multitask.
The group knits at church services, with the permission of the Rev. Richard A. Schumacher, pastor, and has taken the project on the road in a manner of speaking. As "Knitters in the Outfield" at Mahoning Valley Scrappers games, they made six blankets for the homeless. As "Chicks with Sticks" at Youngstown Steelhounds games, they made 34 caps for residents of Mahoning Valley Rescue Mission.
The knitters also made 200 caps for newborn babies in Caps for the Capital through the Save the Children Foundation. These three projects were collaborative efforts with Western Reserve Knitting Guild and Liberty Knitting Group.
The Unity knitters also made 31 red scarves for the Orphan Foundation of America, nine shawls for residents at New Life Maternity Home in Vienna and five scarves for troops in Iraq through a program sponsored by Michael's arts and crafts stores.
On Monday night, four other knitters along with Williams and her daughter sat around a table knitting and sharing their thoughts.
"We're clicking for a cause," said Williams-Jones. The impetus behind the effort, she said, focuses on "making a difference in someone's life."
"I think it's neat in the fact that one person can make a difference, and working together, it's even better," she said.
For Williams, it's taking the craft she learned as a child, teaching it to others and sharing the joy. "I learned on two straight sticks and a string from a cloth sugar sack," she said. "It's the magic we create."
Some of that magic must come from the heartfelt prayer and warm thoughts that are stitched into every item. Before, during and after each project, the knitter says prayers for the recipient.
Make a Difference Day
The knitters are participating in Make a Difference Day and will knit from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Oct. 27 at Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown. They'll be knitting layettes for needy families. A blessing ceremony will be at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 28 at the church.
The recipients receive a beautiful handmade item that will give physical and spiritual comfort. And the knitter?
"It's a spiritual experience and gratifying," Williams said.
"There's so much energy and devotion to this," said Alison McNeal, who has attended Unity since 1991.
McNeal recalled a church member was going through a crisis and received a knitted shawl. "It was a concrete example to show how we cared," she said.
Mother-daughter knitters Charlene and Vauna Gore agree. "There's great satisfaction knowing you're helping to meet a need. And even though we don't usually meet the people who receive the items, you still have a feeling of companionship."
Her daughter mentioned the spirit and camaraderie among knitters, who willingly helped one another.
Debbie Balough admitted she had an aversion to knitting. "I could never get any projects done. But now, this is for a good cause."
The Rev. Mr. Schumacher said church members had a "passing understanding" of the project until the day when the 200 baby caps were in the sanctuary to be blessed. "It was thrilling to watch people. They didn't understand the reach until they had the opportunity to hold the caps and have them blessed."