Stitching ministry into daily life

The hectic pace of the average college student’s life makes cramming in extra activities—like helping others—seem next to impossible. But one Union College student and a couple of recent graduates found a way to stitch the opportunity to help others into their busy lives. On Sabbath afternoon, Nov. 3, they want to share that opportunity with the rest of Union’s campus.

“We just wanted a project: something bigger to be a part of,” said Amanda Shea, senior psychology major. “My friends and I did the breast cancer walk in October 2010 and when it was over we said ‘ok, what’s next?’ The following months were cold and I wanted to do something for Christmas so the idea came to crochet hats and scarves and give them to the homeless.”

Stitch Ministry was born from three students’ willingness to use their creativity to serve others. Amanda Shea, along with 2012 graduates Angela Chan Ashton and Betsy Norton, polished crocheting skills to make hats and scarves to donate to the People’s City Mission, a non-profit organization that provides food and shelter for the homeless in Lincoln.

“I learned to crochet back in Pathfinders,” explained Shea. “Angie is really artsy so when I mentioned the idea she was up for it and the homeless shelter was really positive too. Now this will be our third year.”

The students announced their intentions in the College View Church’s bulletin and gained participation from church members and Union staff. “A lot of ladies from the church called and Judy Joiner [former Union employee] helped out a bunch,” recalled Shea. “I met a lot of new people that year.”

Having gained support, the small group was now a team of volunteers. “Angie actually came up with the term ‘Stitch Ministry,’” said Shea. “When we were putting it into the bulletin the secretary at the church asked ‘what do we call it?’ She just threw that name out there and it’s stuck ever since.”

When Shea shared the idea with her family back home, her grandmother and aunt jumped on board to involve their local church in the project. “My grandma crochets throughout the whole year,” said Shea. “She and my aunt called the companies that make the yarn, told them about the ministry, and asked if there was any extra yarn they didn’t sell or couldn’t use. The companies gave them tons and all for free. Our first year, my grandma sent us two boxes filled with scarves and hats. This ministry gives her a way to help even though she can’t go out much. She loves it.”

Shea is adamant that anyone can participate and she wants to involve as many people as possible. “Judy Joiner and the ladies at the church know some really intricate stitches,” she admitted. “I’m not a pro crocheter at all—I know two stitches, but I have this easy pattern for a scarf and I can teach it to anyone who wants to learn. Angie didn’t really know much at first either, but she learned and can now do amazing things. She’s even sold stuff on and made gifts for her friends and husband.”

There are plenty of ways to help out with the ministry even if crocheting is not your forte. “It’s not just crocheting,” explained Shea. “People have knitted before and one girl offered to sew, but it doesn’t even have to be homemade. If you have scarves you never wear or a sweater that doesn’t fit you can donate them. We’re going to have boxes in the Dick Building for collection.”

The People’s City Mission sets aside a day once each year to display the donated items so customers can select a Christmas gift. “Initially we wanted to have it personal, wrap the items and put them at people’s doors like presents, but the Mission thought it might be better for people to pick their own,” said Shea. “It would be awesome to see their faces, but just knowing that someone out there is wearing a scarf that I made is good enough. It’s kind of the unknown that’s happy.”

She believes stitch ministry provides a great opportunity to incorporate making a difference and helping others into your daily life. “I hear a lot of people say ‘people only do nice things for selfish reasons because it makes them feel good,’ but what’s wrong with that?” Shea asked. “If helping others makes them happy and it makes you happy, what’s wrong with everyone being happy? I’m in school and have so much to do, yet having this little project on the side makes me feel like I’m giving back. I’m not doing much, I’m just crocheting, but you don’t have to go out in to the world to make a difference. You can do it right here at home.”

Stitch Ministry and Women’s Ministries are joining together for a crocheting/knitting party as a Something On Sabbath (SOS) activity. The group will meet at 3:00 p.m. on November 3 in Rees Hall’s third floor West lobby. Yarn will be provided, but not crochet hooks or knitting needles. Stitch Ministry will be collecting items to donate to the People’s City Mission for the rest of fall semester. For more information or to get involved contact Amanda Shea at FAgirl08 [at]