As Sharon Shields wrapped her blue speckled yarn around her knitting needle, her friend Jennifer Horn, a seasoned knitter and crocheter for about 45 years, was quick to point out, “That’s the cheatin’ way.”
“I don’t care; it works,” Shields said with a laugh.
Shields, a member of Ladies of Charity of Arkansas and Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in North Little Rock (Marche), admits it’s been about 50 years since she tried her hand at knitting, and it helped to have Horn, a friend and fellow parishioner, showing her the ropes — or yarn.
“I read somewhere if God gives you a gift, you ought to share it. I guess this is a gift,” Horn said, donating a large bag of multi-colored yarn for the group.
The first Knit, Crochet and Pray social gathering was held Feb. 12 at 4 p.m. at St. John Center in Little Rock to benefit the Ladies of Charity of Arkansas Knits for the Homeless program. A handful of people attended the inaugural social, including Sister Mary Ann Azar, DC, the organization’s sister moderator, and Sister Nancy Cassidy, DC.
The socials, which will be held likely every other month, are meant for those who knit and crochet, people who want to learn and those who simply want to pray, enjoy the fellowship and donate to the homeless. All created or donated items will be delivered to Jericho Way day resource center in Little Rock and possibly other homeless outreach entities at Christmas. Non-members are also welcome.
“Since Valentine’s (Day) is a time for love, what a great way to share our love for the homeless too,” said Cheryl Smith, project chairwoman of the socials and the organization’s treasurer.
The Ladies of Charity of Arkansas, a Catholic lay women’s nonprofit founded in 2008, was the first local chapter of the larger Vincentian ministry the Ladies of Charity of the United States of America and is also a member of the International Association of Charities (AIC), according to its website, lcark.org.
There are about 30 active members along with a board of directors, who pay dues of $25 a year, and also associate members, those who contribute to certain projects when they can.
Throughout the past 11 years, their work has been diverse, but falling under their mission to be “advocates for the vulnerable,” from providing utility and rent assistance to those in need to an art camp for foster children.
“The spirit and works are driven by” the work of St. Vincent de Paul “to serving the poor,” said founding president Kristy Eanes.
Knits for the Homeless started last Christmas when the organization donated a couple bags of knitted items, including scarfs and gloves, to Jericho Way.
Smith said vice president Amanda Crawford came up with the idea for the socials. Crawford, who began knitting and crocheting at 5 years old, said the craft is “very much a centering” experience, focusing on the task at hand, pushing “your troubles away and just be.”
The social began with prayer, asking for the intercession of Mary Undoer of Knots. Each attendee received a Mary Undoer of Knots medal and a novena booklet. Eanes said praying for the homeless through the intercession of Mary fits, as “I’m sure they have lots of knots in their life.” Spare needles and yarn were available for anyone who wanted to give it a try.
“Anybody can knit,” said Eanes, who considers herself about intermediate. “It’s so therapeutic. You can pray for the person and the people” while creating their gift, which can be anything from a scarf to a blanket. Sister Nancy, who works at Jericho Way, also proposed crocheting together plastic bags, a design used to make mats or totes for the homeless.
“The Ladies of Charity is basically a group that contributes, but we don’t have a lot of people coming to meetings and socializing. We’d like to make this an outreach for anyone who wants to socialize with the group and also to increase the amount of stuff we’re making or donating,” Smith said.
For those who want to learn more about Knit, Crochet and Pray or other programs with the Ladies of Charity or to donate, call Smith at (501) 664-0340, ext. 345, email or visit lcark.org.
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