By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
FREELAND, Md.—Gunpowder Church’s Knit Wits knitting group is so popular spin-off groups are forming including a prayer shawl ministry, a group that meets in a senior adult complex and one that meets at a coffee house.
Church secretary, Iris Singleton, started a prayer shawl ministry.
“Some of their group learned to knit as Knit Wits had assured me they could never learn to knit. They tried to learn as kids and it did not work out. Now they’re knitting prayer shawls!” Pat Elligson, founder of the Knit Wits laughed.
Singleton was one of those who didn’t think she’d be able to knit. She was left-handed. Eligson encouraged Singleton and put the knitting needles in Singleton’s right hand and before long Singleton was amazing herself by knitting.
Knit Wits Joyce Moore, Catherine Benshoof and Mary Louise Smith live at the Courtyards Retirement Community in Shrewsbury, Pa. Benshoof, who relocated from the Freeland area to the retirement community, started a Sister Knit Wits there for women unable to travel to Freeland. Each month, Benshoof delivers a big bag of knitting items back to Elligson.
Benshoof said she knew several women who lived in her retirement community who wanted to participate but couldn’t—some were in wheel chairs or used walkers. So she brought the Knit Wits to them. Now they have a time of fellowship and they enjoy doing something for others. “One lady said, ‘If I read a book, that’s for me, but I’m doing this for someone else,’” Benshoof said.
Another “Sister Knit Wits” group meets in Perry Hall. It was formed by Gwyneth Lewis, whose mother, Dorothy Hughes, was in the Gunpowder group.
“‘My mom died last year, but about five years ago she told me, ‘before I die you have to know how to knit.’” Lewis remembers trying her hand at knitting on a Christmas Eve and she couldn’t even hold the needles, but she persevered and soon she was knitting hats. Hughes wanted Lewis to come to the Knit Wits group at Gunpowder, but it was difficult for her to drive the 70 miles round trip with a busy schedule and three teenagers so Lewis decided to start her own group. She asked around at her home church, Loch Raven Presbyterian, to see if there was interest. Now about eight ladies, ranging from age 12 to 70 meet twice a month at a local Starbucks. They find a corner, drink their coffees and knit away. “The group gathers their completed crafts and gives them to Lewis’ dad, who delivers them to Eligson at church.
Sometimes the group makes specific items, such as blankets, for people they know who are ill or going through trying situations. “I made one for my mom and we prayed over it,” Lewis said. “…there’s something about something homemade especially for you.”
Eligson sends the knitting projects away to meet needs nationally and even internationally. Last Christmas, the group sent 20 boxes with 350 knitted pieces, to low income people in the Appalachia area. Gunpowder Church paid for the postage. They also sent large boxes of knitting to Afghanistan, Peru, Tanzania and Ghana. Locally they sent baby caps to Carroll Hospital Center in Westminster and to a special cancer care center.
The Knit Wits group also responds to needs as they arise. When Knit Wit, Carol Angelossi, visited her son, Ben Gruver, serving in the Peace Corps in Micronesia, she discovered a need for reading glasses. The grandmother of Gruver’s host family was thought to be partially blind because she couldn’t see anything close up. After trying on several pairs of reading glasses that Angelossi brought the grandmother could suddenly see.
“That lit up her world,” Eligson said. The first thing the woman did is go in her room and get her Bible.
Angelossi and her son realized that there were many others like the grandmother. Angelossi told her fellow Knit Wits and they collected about 30 pairs of reading glasses that they sent to Micronesia.
“I never dreamed the Knit Wits would go to the heights and accomplish all we have. This was just supposed to be a simple knitting class for six to eight weeks. Now we will be four years old in January, and have donated over 2,000 items to charity. There is no doubt that we are in the will of God!