I teach visual arts at South Forsyth High School in Cumming, Georgia. This year our art budget was cut 75%. I had never taught the students to knit before, but I surveyed the supplies I had and yarn was something I had plenty of, so I decided to teach knitting. I also hadn't knitted in several years and needed some refresher courses myself. A friend and avid knitter, Lynn Shoemake, came to my rescue. She came to my house and knitted with me, sharing tips and patterns. Another friend, Pat Bradley, told me about knitting for charity groups like Warm Up American. She said that she was involved with a local girls' home, Jesse's House, and that if my students were interested in donating any of their knitted items, the girls as Jesse's House could use them. I suggested this as a project to my National Art Honor Society and my visual arts classes at South. They became excited about knitting and about sharing their scarves, hats and afgan squares with the girls at Jesse's House.
Several other teachers got involved as well. Margo Carnes, the fine arts department chair at South, began knitting in her classes, too, and she and her students contributed donations. Pam Ownbey, science department chair, as well as Kathy Kapinski, the gifted department chair, joined in, knitting many afgan squares. Another science teacher, Dr. Kelly Price, sent her mother to estate sales looking for yarn and needles to donate to the cause. Students bought their own yarn and needles, as well. One student, Sarah, learned that her grandmother in England was about to sell her needles at a yard sale and she ask her to donate them to the cause. She did and Sarah brought them back on the plane with her for future students to use. As the Christmas Holidays neared, students and teachers would be seen all over campus knitting as fast as their needles would click. Everyone knitted, the quiet, shy kids, the cheerleaders, the football players, and the track stars. Some of the favorite Lion Brand yarns were the fun fur, the Wool Ease thick and quick, and the chenille. We knitted two large afghans to be used at the new Jesse's House facility that was dedicated just after the holidays. We also knitted hats for every girl who was there during the holidays and many scarves. Pat Bradley came to our NAHS meeting to receive the donations and to explain to my students the purpose of Jesse's House. She said sometimes home is not the safest place for kids. Jesse's House was founded to give girls in our community a safe haven when they couldn't go home until foster care could be provided. She said that in the future, the organization hopes to expand so they can offer a similar place for boys as well. I watched my students as they listened to her description of Jesse's House. The room of giggly teens got still and I knew that for some, the idea of an unsafe home had never ocurred to them. They had a new appreciation for the families to which they belonged and deep concern for those less fortunate.
I don't know the stories of the individual girls who received the hats and scarves, though we got a very nice thank you note from the director of Jesse's House. I hope they enjoyed them and were warmer on those really cold mornings in January when even Georgia sucombs to Winter. What I do know is that the students and teachers, the friends who helped, and I were all blessed in the doing of this charitable act. As in most cases, it is the giver who receives the most. We have begun to amass a new collection of items and hope to have many more gifts to present next Christmas.
Thank you for letting me share our story.
Visual Art Instructor
South Forsyth High School