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Craft for a Cause - hats and mittens for James McHenry School

Posted by Christy Zuccarini on December 7, 2008 11:16 PM on Baltimore

For the past couple of weeks, Roberto Allen has been driving around Baltimore with a car full of yarn. He doesn’t knit or crochet. In fact, Roberto is vice president of legal affairs and intellectual property for Alba Therapeutics Corp., a biopharmaceutical company located in the University of Maryland BioPark.

Just a couple of blocks from his office is James McHenry Elementary School, whose students first met Roberto and his assistant Antonia Daniels on Halloween. “We had all 252 students come through our office and a few other places in the BioPark building to trick or treat. They had a blast!” he says.

In getting to know the school leadership, Roberto and Antonia learned that many of the kids at James McHenry, 98 percent of whom qualify for free or reduced lunch, were lacking two very essential winter items – hats and mittens. After the school’s counselor told Roberto about a little girl who had only one pair of mittens that she shared with her brother, he and his colleagues felt compelled to help.

“We decided that one project we would embark on would be to provide a wool hat and pair of mittens for each student at the school. Rather than go buy a bunch of hats and mittens at WalMart, we wanted to give it a personal touch, so we chose to recruit local knitters to make this happen,” Roberto explains.

In October, Roberto began reaching out to Baltimore’s craft community, and the response has been significant. The MICA Knitting Club, led by student Katie Vota, has knitted several hundred hats. Sue Caldwell of Lovelyarns and Sarah Kahl of the Baltimore Knitting Meetup Group are facilitating the production of mittens. There are also groups out of Atomic Books in Hampden, the Friends School Knitting Club and the Charm City Craft Mafia.

“Each group has mobilized to make sure that every child at James McHenry has a pair of mittens and a hat that were handmade in Baltimore,” Roberto says. “It is quite fascinating how many people are willing to help if they are asked,” he adds.

There are still many mittens to be made before Christmas. If you would like to participate, visit Lovelyarns in Hampden, where there is plenty of yarn to be had (provided for free by Alba) as well as hand tracings from each child. Also, if you’re a member of Ravelry, visit the KAL (knit along) group called 'Mittens for James McHenry School' for ongoing details.

“I had no idea that the knitting and crocheting community in Baltimore was so vast and close-knit,” Roberto says. “I don’t know how to knit…yet. I am thinking about it and may attend a Stitch & Bitch session one day soon.”