“I went to see Sister Audrey and told her I’d do a dozen.”
Pat Karvan of Graysville shook her head and laughed at her own words. “But once I started knitting, I don’t know, I just couldn’t stop. By the time I got around to counting them I had 52 sets of hats and scarves to bring in. They filled four boxes.”
She stood in the office of Greene County Salvation Army on First Street, Waynesburg, surrounded by a small mountain of plastic bags spilling out of big cardboard boxes. The light shining through the window illuminated the bright patterns of the scarves and hats inside. They were a riot of texture and color, ready to be hung on the Salvation Army Christmas tree and offered as gifs to those in need who might come through the warehouse doors.
Welcome to that special time of year when many get the urge to do for others, especially as the chill of winter settles in. Inspiration might come from a neighbor, a church project or a desire to give back.
For Karvan, it was a Jan. 1 article in the Observer Reporter about the Knifty Knitters of Strabane Trails Village that made her pick up the needles her mother taught her to use and knit up a storm for Sister Audrey Quinn.
“When I read how that group in Washington knitted hats and scarves for the Salvation Army, I got inspired and started to do it. Knitting is something you can pick up and put down again and I’m hoping others might be inspired too. I bought all my yarn on sale, clipped coupons and one lady donated some to me. I even found yarn that my mother bought in England. I double knitted because I want people to be warm.”
Karvan’s return to needles and yarn brought an unexpected gift – happy memories of her own childhood.
“My mother was a fabulous knitter. She would knit and give it away and what she made for us has been passed down as family heirlooms. She taught me when I was 9 or 10 and I used to watch her. She could lay out her own graphs. When I started knitting these hats and scarves, I couldn’t remember how she did it but I when I knitted ‘Steelers’ into some sets I figured it out. I had the black yarn but it was hard finding the gold. I finally found it at Big Lots.”
She held out a hat, showing those iconic gold letters marching across the black brim and laughed again.
“I’ve started looking for yarn on sale already, for next year,” she said.
At the Salvation Army, the warmest gift of the season isn’t necessarily a hat. Christmas presents for kids are given to families that signed up in October and now wait for a call from Sister Audrey.
“We call our program Treasures for Kids and we coordinate with the Angel Tree so our presents can go to as many children as possible. Families will be called to come in as we fill their lists,” Quinn said.
The Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Angel Tree Program has been making children happy on Christmas Day since the late 1980s.
Angel Tree families – 410 children were signed up this year – whose income is below 150 percent of poverty, provide the particulars of each child’s gender, size and taste in toys. This information is handwritten on paper “angels” and distributed through businesses, churches, agencies and individuals. Deadline for dropping off gifts at the charity’s office, 72 E. High Street, is Monday and there will be refreshments and cookies, freshly baked by Waynesburg University students, waiting for those who stop by to deliver.
“When I did my internship at the Greene County office in 2003, I never experienced such an outpouring of care and hope like I’ve seen this past month,” new director Liz Smith said. “We have received three substantial monetary gifts from the American Legion James Farrell Post, Alliance of Bikers Aimed Towards Education (ABATE), and the Blue Knights International Motorcycle Club, to supplement this program.”
In addition, 23 organizations have taken angels for distribution to members and staff and an additional 13 individuals have taken numerous angels. Many brand new shiny toys, bikes, coats, clothing, etc. are already pouring into the office daily, ahead of the upcoming Monday deadline.
“Although we had to adapt to changing times and request that all gifts arrive unwrapped, most gifts are coming with wrapping paper supplied,” Smith said.
Like Treasures for Kids, as the Angel Tree gifts come in, families are contacted to pick up the bags of unwrapped presents and take a peek to decide what other goodies they might be able to afford to add.
“To our delight, we received a donation of eight hams and side dishes for individuals who are in need of a holiday meal from Bell’s Wholesale owners and their employees. Several Waynesburg University students donated turkey dinners for the same purpose,” Smith said. “We have also been promised 12 additional turkeys from Rolling Meadows to provide for holiday meals.”
For those who might have missed the sign-up dates for Treasures for Kids and Angel Tree, there’s still time to get something extra for the kids this Christmas.
The long-running Tri-County Leathernecks Toys for Tots program has its donation boxes out at banks, stores, supermarkets, post offices, banks and other community drop off sites.
“We’re coordinating with the Marine Corp League of Washington County this year,” Leatherneck Buzz Walters said. “Parents need to bring proof of income and know the Social Security numbers of their kids. Anything we have left over goes to Salvation Army.”
Toys for Tots will distribute from 10 a.m. to noon Dec. 15 at the Greene County Fairgrounds, Greensboro Fire Hall, Carmichaels American Legion and St. Thomas Church, Clarksville.
For more information, call Murray Williams at 724-627-8441.