By Joyce DeWallace, Contributing Writer
Grafton – How do you encourage a new generation to learn a very old craft? According to Diane Racicot, the Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Grafton High School, you have students work with members of the local Senior Center.
“I saw it [the Warm Up America program] on the Internet and thought it would be great for the Creative Crafts Class and the Family and Community Leader Club,” Racicot explained.
She worked with Annette McCarthy, the crafts leader at the Senior Center to set up the project, and now the two groups get together Wednesday mornings to knit or crochet.
“I never knitted before, “said high school senior Jenna Arbogast. “I learned in two classes. It was hard to get the idea at first, but now I find it so relaxing.”
Mary Bazinet, a member of the Senior Center, said, “This project helped me get back to knitting. It’s a life skill that requires time, but is so peaceful and it’s a creative outlet. The young people seem to be doing well and are engaged in the project.”
The Warm Up America program was the brainchild of Evie Rosen, a former yarn shop owner in Wausau, Wis. In 1990, she saw the need for blankets for the homeless and was unable to knit enough by herself. She came up with the idea of having volunteers knit and crochet small 7”-by-9” rectangles and then join them together. She approached customers, friends from a professional women’s organization, and her synagogue. Everyone loved the idea. Some knit or crocheted sections; others joined them together to create unique patchwork afghans. When an article appeared in the “Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,” the program took off all across the country and has been growing ever since.
“There are basic needs that we all share and keeping warm is one of them,” the founder explained. “A gift of something handmade brings special warmth and love to someone in need.”
Beverly Mara was a Home Economics teacher for 25 years and is enthused about being involved with the project.
“I know how important it is for younger people to learn some of the crafts that have been around for hundreds of years,” she said. “Handmade treasures in this day and age are more valuable because of the effort and love involved.”
When junior Erin Slason heard about the project, she signed up right away.
“I started knitting in first grade in the recess knitting club,” she said. “I’ve always liked knitting. I like being able to give back to the community and do something for others.”
The director of the Senior Center, Barbara Connelly, is very pleased with the project.
“What I like about this program is that everybody benefits,” she said. “Seniors are not just old people and students are not just brats.”
“We want to encourage community participation,” stated McCarthy. “The program is open to anyone who wants to get involved.”
For those who would like to make pieces, there are patterns on the Warm Up America website. Donations of 7”-by-9” knit or crocheted rectangles in acrylic yarns are being collected and can be dropped off at four sites: the main office at Grafton High School, 24 Providence Road; Grafton Senior Center, 30 Providence Road; Grafton Public Library, 35 Grafton Common; or at Suzi’s Fiber Cat shop, 156 Main St., South Grafton.
McCarthy explained that both she and Racicot have located recipients for the blankets.
“I already have two ailing senior citizens who will receive an afghan,” she noted.
Added Racicot, “We’re going to distribute them to the local community and the local veterans’ homeless group here in Grafton.”
For more information or to suggest a worthy recipient, contact McCarthy at email@example.com or call the Senior Center at 508-839-9242.