[Hpn] Cohasset, MA - Hats for homeless teaches life lessons - Cohasset Mariner - December 11,2003

HC Covington HC Covington" <hcc@icanamerica.org
Fri, 12 Dec 2003 06:02:05 -0500

Hats for homeless teaches life lessons

By Samantha Brown - Cohasset Mariner - December 11,2003

Cohasset, MA - It means so much for the people who come
to the shelter to know someone made a gift especially for them.

Since 1997, art teacher Ann Berman has been teaching Deer
Hill students to knit and has invited them to participate in
making hats for the homeless, which students deliver to area
shelters for the holidays.

The hats are knitted outside of class and are completely a
volunteer effort, and the trend has spread from the
students, to the staff, to parents, and even grandparents.

To date, Cohasset has donated more than 1,000 hats to the

"I never knew it would take off the way it did," Berman
said, adding she is thrilled with the way the project has
turned out. "The kids are pretty amazing."

This year, students will deliver hats to Rosie's Place, a
Boston area homeless shelter for women and children. Unlike
many other shelters, Rosie's Place is not funded by the
government and relies on the generosity of volunteers to
help keep it running. Berman said all the students who have
made hats - or are in the process and haven't finished just
yet - are invited to deliver the hats, which the shelter's
director gives out during the Christmas dinner.

Each student who has knitted a hat ties a white index card
with their name, age, and a message to the recipient, and
many share how long it took them to make it.

"They keep the little white cards," said Berman of those who
receive the hats, adding it means so much for the people who
come to the shelter to know someone made a gift especially
for them. She added when a student takes the time to knit
the hat, and after all that work, gives it away, it's not
easy. However, the students recognize the importance in what
they're doing and that, "They're keeping someone warm," in
the physical and emotional sense, she said.

Students begin learning how to knit when they are in the
fourth grade. Berman makes sure to tell her students a
little bit about the history of knitting, including that it
was originally started by fishermen when they needed to mend
their nets out at sea. She stresses knitting is neither a
masculine or feminine craft, and has an even mix of students
who participate. To drive the point home even further,
Berman has a picture hanging in the hall next to the hats,
of burly actor Russell Crowe who played the heroic general
Maximus in Gladiator, wielding knitting needles instead of a

Among five of her first-year students, 14 hats have already
been completed and more are on the way. Vincent Kennedy has
made two hats, Francesca Astino is on her second, Morgan
McCarthy is finishing her fourth, Julia Thompson just
finished her first, and Abby Brown is finishing her

Because she is not allowed to watch much television during
the week, Abby said she has been making hats in her spare
time. "It gives you something else to do besides watch TV,"
she said.

Julia said she likes to knit while she watches TV because it
gives her something else to do instead of just staring at
the screen.

Morgan said he likes knitting because it gives him something
to do on a rainy day. "I enjoy it," he said.

But Francesca said the part she likes the best is when she
finally finishes, which depending on how fast you can knit
and the intricacy of the pattern, may take a while. For
Vincent, who said he wants to make a Patriots hat, it could
be a lengthy endeavor.

Berman said knitting has really caught on in town and it's
not unusual to see kids walking down the hall or sitting at
a sports event knitting a hat. She said a few years ago, she
had a group of sixth-grade boys who played basketball, and
during a game in Scituate, they took out their needles and
yarn while they sat on the bench. Their knitting caught the
eye of one of the Scituate teachers, who called Berman the
next day and said when the boys told her they were making
hats for the homeless, she was almost moved to tears.

But it's not just current students who contribute to the
cause. Berman said there are many students who move on to
the middle-high school and still send their hats down to
Deer Hill to be delivered to shelters. Even grandmothers,
who just love to knit, will make hats and send them over to
the school.

"One year, Grandma Livingston made 25 hats and brought them
down in two shopping bags," Berman said of a friend the
school made through the Senior Center, and with her
addition, the hat count was instantly over 100. Berman said
every year, the students at least shoot to make 100 hats to
be delivered.

The staff has become involved in the project as well and one
fourth-grade teacher, Kayne Beaudry has begun work on a

"He's a good sport, he's working hard," said Berman.

"At first I thought I could make a hat for everyone in my
family," said Beaudry, and joked it looks like maybe
everyone will receive a headband instead.

Even new principal Keith Gauley he has been working on a
hat, and said he hopes he will finish before the hats are
delivered on Dec. 18. On that day, all students are invited
to make the trip to the shelter and are driven by parents in
what Berman describes as a "convoy."

This year, the hats will at least total 140, but many more
could be finished before the trip is made. But even if a hat
isn't done on the day of the trip, Berman said it's never
too late to submit one for the cause.

"If someone finishes a hat by the time they graduate and
says here's my hat as they walk out the door," she said, at
least there will be one more hat to add to the rest. It
takes time to complete a project and Berman said she is
always joking with students, "There is no knitting fairy -
she retired a long time ago."

The project does more than introduce students to a world
different from their own, it teaches a lesson in empathy.

"For kids to understand it's not just people who don't want
to work," who are homeless, is an important lesson Berman
said, adding for some, homelessness is caused when an
illness makes it impossible to work, and for others, maybe
the rent has gone up or the company they work for has gone
under and the money just isn't available.

"So many people are homeless for lots of different
circumstances," she says.

Berman hopes by introducing students to volunteering, it
will be something they will continue doing for years to
come. "If I can get [the students] to think about others and
realize they can make a difference, maybe they will continue
to volunteer as they get older," Berman said.

And the example set by the students is rubbing off on
parents as well. Some who have driven students up to deliver
the hats have made the commitment to volunteer their time at
the shelter in various ways, sometimes serving meals. For
parents, it can be a learning experience too, said Berman.

When students hear the overwhelming statistics of how
rampant homelessness is, they wonder what else they can do
when there are so many homeless people and only 140 hats.

While she reminds students they are making a difference, the
fact that they are aware of the problem and want to help is
more than Berman could have ever hoped for.

"I'm so proud of them," she said.

Cohasset Mariner source page: http://tinyurl.com/ywp5
ŠTHE HOMELESS NEWS - H.C. Covington, Editor  http://tinyurl.com/2yg2