Monday, September 24, 2007

The Cold Is Coming Fast

Some of my favorite things to do when the weather gets cold are strolling through the autumn leaves and making snow angels with The Girl. When our cheeks turn pink from the brisk wind, we love to go back inside, make some hot chocolate, and if it's snowing, watch the flakes sprinkle down.

As I thank God for such simple pleasures, it's hard to fathom that some people just minutes from my door are fighting the cold. They can't always find shelter from the elements, and I'm sure the snow isn't so beautiful when you're freezing and without a warm, dry place to sleep. And I'm also pretty sure hot chocolate is a luxury most of them cannot afford.

I see the homeless every day in the Bethesda Metro station on my way to the bus, a half-dozen overflowing shopping carts and tattered luggage and paper bags sometimes blocking the entrance to the pedestrian tunnel, concealing the sleeping bodies except for the row of worn shoes. Sometimes they are sleeping out in the open, sometimes they are rummaging through the trash, sometimes they are just sitting there staring at something I don't see.

My first instinct is to look away, but I try to look them full in the face and give them a friendly smile, as they deserve the same courtesy I would give to my fellow commuters. Many times they smile back, but sometimes I will catch their eyes and see a look of sadness, or worse, emptiness. I could wonder how they ended up this way, and while I've never been on the brink of homelessness, I've experienced what it's like to have no money to pay the bills and ration out the food in my freezer because there wasn't enough money to do the grocery shopping. But my family struggled through and were blessed enough to keep a roof over our heads. I might complain and vent about my job, and I'm far from being rich or even moderately comfortable, but I thank the Lord every day for providing.

Instead of pondering how one ends up homeless, I decided to something to help. And as a knitter, the one thing I know how to do well is make warm woolen things.

My church, Holy Trinity in Glen Burnie, MD, holds a winter shelter for approximately 26 homeless men for one week in November; the men travel to various parishes throughout the archdiocese during the cold months. The church opens the hall to these men, providing them cots and clean sheets and warm meals prepared by volunteers from various ministries. I'm excited about serving and conversing with these men through the ministry I help to coordinate (RCIA, or Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), but the Lord has impressed upon my heart that there is more I can do to help these men. I don't have the resources to find them homes or jobs, but I can use my knitting skills to help keep them warm this winter.

It's been about a year in the making, but I've been slowly knitting hats, gloves, fingerless gloves/mitts, mittens, and cotton wash cloths for these men. A few wonderful knitters even donated yarn to this project. It's been a solo project, and it's been slow-going because I want to make sure there's something for everyone (rounding up to 30 men to be on the safe side).

And while it seems like a large undertaking for one person, I must tell you all that I've been enjoying every minute of the knitting time I've devoted to these men. I may not know them yet, but that doesn't matter. I know it's not much, but anything to make it easier for them to get through the winter would be a big help.

I haven't mentioned the project to many people, but since I've entered the blogosphere, I've realized that it doesn't have to be a solo project. I know that you all have various work-home-family-life commitments, but my husband encouraged me to blog about the winter shelter project in case anyone wanted to help by donating knitted items.

So, in case you are interested, I'll let you know what my plans are. I'm looking to have one hat and one pair of gloves, mittens, fingerless gloves, OR fingerless mittens (preferably in a matching yarn) for each man. (I'm knitting in various sizes, using various patterns to break up the monotony, and also using my average-sized husband as a guide. I know it's not ideal, but it's better than nothing.) I'm also envisioning a small toiletry kit for each man consisting of at least a cotton washcloth, a disposable razor, and a bar of soap.

For the hats and gloves/mittens, there are no yarn or pattern requirements, just something warm in "manly" colors and stitch patterns. I don't have an exact date for the shelter yet, so as of right now, I'd say everything would need to get to me by Nov. 1--a date I'm willing to extend once I find out the particulars.

If you are able to participate or have any questions, please email me at anna_begood AT hotmail DOT com. If you are unable to participate, I completely understand, but I wanted to get this out there just in case.

Here are a few links to patterns I've been using. Feel free to use whatever pattern you wish, but keep in mind that the items will be given to men.

Utopia Hat
Twisted Rib Watch Cap
Bev's THE Mitts
Ribbed Caps

If anyone has any others they'd like to share, feel free to post in comments.


Bethany said...

You are an awesome person to do that! As soon as I am settled and not living out of a suitcase, I promise to help you.
It is still miserable hot here. The air feels like bath water.
Where is fall?

Anna said...

Thank you for any help you can give! I know how busy you are!

Deborah said...

What a neat project! I love your blog. Have you seen the yahoo group called Christian Artisans, which is at www dot groups dot yahoo dot com / group/ ChristianArtisans? I think you might like it.

Anna said...

Thanks, Deborah!

I'll def. check out the yahoo group!

Serena said...

so, you are full on this project...wooohoo...i always wondered why only men, what about the homeless women out the bag lady in Bethesda Metro?

Anna said...

Well, the church focuses on homeless men because they are more likely to have no place else to go in the winter. I know most of the area shelters give priority to women and children.

Serena said...

i had no idea...but i wonder if they do a drive for the other shelters...that what i was wondering really...just the men they shelter for that one week seems like hardly enough.

Anna said...

Each parish in the archdiocese takes the homeless men for a week. They're only at my church for one week, then they go to another, and so on throughout the winter.

Serena said...

Gotcha! just during the winter though?