Knitters spreading kindness by giving scarves to strangers

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MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) — More than 400 scarves were hanging on a park fence earlier this month in downtown Manchester, waiting for people with chilly necks and shoulders to snatch them up for the winter season.

Within a day, the scarves were gone.

The hundreds of hand-knitted scarves are part of a project started two years ago by the Rev. Ruth Gallot, who was looking for a way to inspire parishioners at Longmeadow Congregational Church UCC in Auburn to do something more than write a check.

"It was something simple that people could do," Gallot said "So often, people think there is no way (they) can make a difference in the world. We believe you do what you can."

The first year, parishioners made 75 scarves to give out to people in the community who needed or wanted them.

"I want to see people being warm. If I can do that little thing, I'm glad to do it," said Christine Hrycuna, who knitted 50 scarves this year.

The group of knitters has grown in just two years with groups donating yarn and other scarves and hats to give away.

The reaction to the scarf project has been a mix of surprise and admiration, with many visitors finding it hard to believe they are getting a scarf for free.

"It does a good job," said Dawon Fulse, of Manchester, who picked out a scarf. "It keeps my neck warm, plus, actually, the colors match perfectly. And listen, everybody needs help."

But at a nearby homeless shelter, not everyone felt the effort went far enough. The shelter received 75 of the scarves.

"It's a nice gesture and I'm glad people want to do something to help," said Kevin Kintner, program director for the New Horizons for New Hampshire, a homeless shelter and food pantry. "But I wish they would look into ways they could address the issues on a deeper level. If people are knitting and make scarves, that is great. But hopefully they do other things, too."

Gallot said she knows this gesture is not going to solve the problem of homelessness, but this is just another step her group can take. She said Longmeadow Church this summer provided weekly food deliveries to the shelter and planted seedlings at its greenhouse.

Gallot said she's even gotten a call from a group in New York that wants to put their scarves in backpacks for the homeless, and she's also heard from groups in Los Angeles and Albuquerque, New Mexico, that want to start their own donation programs.

Knitter Jackie Wood said she thinks helping out with scarf-making is a great cause.

"It became even more meaningful when I went to the park and talked to the people who were taking the scarves and heard their stories," she said.

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