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Ann Alfano
James 1:27

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Especially For You
by Ann Alfano

This was written by Ann Alfano in 1975, who recently went to be with the Lord. She loved to be contacted, for she wanted "to know if you like this story". You may inquire about "Hats" by contacting Ron@fridaystudy.org.   Ann said "the greatest thing in life is to love God, and the second greatest thing is to love people."

Hats for the Homeless
by Ann Alfano

"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27)

As I walked briskly down a Brooklyn street, I drew my woolly scarf closer to my face, my warm hat over my ears. The bitter cold sent a shiver through my well-protected body. What was it doing to the homeless people I saw slumped on the sidewalk - bareheaded, without scarves, some with summer clothes?

Slowly, an idea came to my mind. Can I make hats for some of the homeless people I've never seen? I wondered. I've always loved any form of handiwork, so the idea seemed good. Still, a crochet hook costs so little. So does a skein of yarn. When I was a little girl, my mother had very thin crochet hooks. She used it to make doilies. I had to buy a larger hook for what I needed.

After making my first hat, I was really going to town to make as many as three hats a week - If I ran into trouble there was someone to help in the apartment building where we lived. When I explained I was making hats for the homeless, one generous person sold me yarn at half price for my project. People donated yarn. I scouted out local stores. After making my first ten tats, I packed them into a shopping bag and headed for a mission in one of the most run-down areas in Brooklyn. This mission has a room where needy and homeless people can pick-out clothes for free.

One day, I made a scarf too wide but discovered that a large square could be turned into a blanket. That meant no more trying to figure out intricate patterns, which took extra time. I started making hats in different sizes, plain or decorated with pompons. Soon, I had hats and matching scarves. Some went to missionary families; others went to a prison ministry that provides gifts for parents to give their children and family at Christmas time.

The next batch went to a Christian medical clinic in the city where street people, mostly mothers and children went. The surprise gift of a colorful hat or a scarf, quickly calms a frightened child with a toothache or injury. One day, A young man at the retirement home stopped and talked to me and told me his father had a hat factory. He also asked me if I could use hats? Already made? I gasped. "I'll bring a few next week for you to see", he said.

A whole week to wait. What if he changed his mind? What if the roof leaked and the hats were ruined? What if someone stole them?

In less than one hour, my friend was back with a handful of hats. "Thank You, Lord."

The hats were machine-made; created in double-knit, nice and warm. The only hitch was that they came in eight-foot-long tubes of knitted bands. I could get hats from each tube. To turn these open-ended pieces into hats, I crocheted the edges and tied-up the top ends, adding pom-poms on some, and leaving others plain.

When several interested residents of the retirement home began to help, I was overjoyed. That week alone, we trimmed 30-hats. Why don't we have more hats to fill the needs? I wondered. Idle hands were everywhere - twiddling aimlessly in a dentist's waiting room, resting in a lap on a vacation trip. The hands of a retired person, no longer needing to work, but waiting to be useful. And the hands of people complaining of boredom, yet doing nothing.

"Of course I can crochet, but what's the point?" a friend asked. "Nobody in my family needs anything!"

"I'm sure our ladies group at Church could make hats and scarves," another friend said, "but what would we do with them? Where would we send them?" I helped both women to understand the need and how they could make the difference in people's lives. New York City has 11,000 homeless children. The streets are just as cold this winter as last.

Soon I began spreading the word everywhere I went. Before long, I saw other hands joining mine. Most people, I found, are willing to pitch-in, once they've heard about a need they could help meet.

Recently, one woman told me her family doctor picks-up his crochet book to work on hats for the homeless, between seeing patients. Some people work on hats while watching TV. A retired artist in a wheel chair, spends hours decorating hats. One Church group made enough hats to decorate a Christmas tree for its' annual children's party. The Church children participated by donating enough money to buy mittens to match the hats.

The most important thing I've learned from working on this project is not about a crochet stitch. Rather, it's about changing people's attitudes toward helping others, and in addition, I've found that saying "I can't" is really the sin of saying "I don't want to" in disguise.

Especially For You
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