Knitting to serve needs - Catholic Courier

Knitting to serve needs

AVON — In a room in the basement of St. Agnes Parish’s office, about a dozen women knitted hats and other items. Eventually, these items will warm the heads of cancer patients, the hearts of domestic-violence victims and the souls of elderly people.

Corrine Schillinger, an Episcopalian, and Julie Flanagan, a St. Agnes parishioner, said The Handiwork Ministry is open to anyone who wants to use their knitting skills to create a kinder world for such groups as abused women, cancer patients, nursing-home residents or people in the last stages of life. The ministry is nondenominational, they stressed, although St. Agnes allows ministry members to meet there and store supplies.

The ministry’s members have knitted caps for adults and babies; gowns and blankets; slippers; afghans; mittens; ornaments; and other decorative items. The items are donated to area hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, crisis-pregnancy centers, cancer-treatment facilities, domestic-violence shelters and other service organizations. Facilities in Rochester, Canandaigua, Batavia and Warsaw have benefited from the ministry’s largesse, the women noted.

Since The Handiwork Ministry began at St. Agnes in 2000, it has donated items to more than 450 people and has also served as a support group for its members, said Flanagan, administrative coordinator, and Schillinger, a volunteer membership coordinator.

“We’re friends in this group, and we try to support each other when somebody has a crisis,” Schillinger said.

“It’s a very caring and nurturing atmosphere,” Flanagan added.

The Handiwork Ministry currently meets monthly at St. Agnes, and in July also began meeting monthly at Le Roy Village Green Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Genesee County. Between 15 and 20 residents have participated in The Handiwork Ministry in Le Roy, according to Flanagan, who noted that this has allowed the ministry to expand its volunteer base while meeting the social needs of the residents.

When asked if it would be easier to simply collect money to buy items rather than make them, Flanagan said that such an approach would leave a lot of people out of the ministry. Some people have supported the ministry by collecting yarn and needles, she said, while others have supported it by packaging items and, in certain cases, praying for the people who receive the items.

“If we collected money, people tend to forget about what they’ve given to,” Flanagan said.

“Plus, the recipients love something handmade,” Schillinger added. “They never know the people who made it … .”

“But they know someone cared for them,” Flanagan said, finishing her friend’s sentence.

Excluding the new members from the Le Roy group, The Handiwork Ministry has a core group of about 35 volunteers, the women said, adding that they could always use more.

According to the group’s literature, The Handiwork Ministry could always use donations of such items as yarn, thread, knitting needles, crochet hooks, ribbon, clear plastic bags, postage stamps and other supplies. The Handiwork Ministry teaches skills to its members, and will provide speakers to any group wishing to learn more about its work.

“Each person who comes here brings certain capabilities, skills, gifts — whatever you want to call them,” Flanagan said of the ministry volunteers. “We would be less if one of these people didn’t come.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: For information on The Handiwork Ministry, call Julie Flanagan at 585/538-6431, or write: The Handiwork Ministry, c/o St. Agnes Church, 108 Prospect St., Avon, NY 14414.

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