November 26, 2021

Purls of warmth

Knitters deliver hats, scarves for Great Give Back

Valerie Puma/staff reporter

Homer resident Lynn Olcott knits a child-sized hat as part of the Great Give Back initiative at the Phillips Free Library. The library is collecting donated hats, mittens and scarves to go with the Homer Elks Lodge’s Operation Warm winter coats for Homer K-12 students

The only sounds in the Phillips Free Library came from the typing at the front desk, the occasional turning of a page, and the subtle clicking of knitting needles.

At the back of the library, two women sat with bags of yarn placed neatly by their sides. Lynn Olcott worked her blue thread around, over and through, adding to a small triangle that would soon become a child’s winter hat — another hat closer to reaching the library’s goal of 250.

“Technically this knit-in is our kickoff event for the Great Give Back initiative, but we’re going to continue to collect donations until the end of the month,” said library Director Priscilla Berggren-Thomas on Saturday. “This is just one more part of bringing people together to do something for everyone in the community.”

The Great Give Back is an annual initiative in which more than 200 public libraries statewide find ways to serve their communities. This year, four Cortland County libraries are collecting food, personal care items, clothing and pet supplies for families.

The Phillips Free Library has helped the Homer Elks Lodge 2506 with its Operation Warm project for years by collecting hats, mittens and scarves to go with a donation of new winter coats for students in the Homer Central School District.

“There are more knit-ins and collections in the community — this is a really generous community, I think,” Olcott said without looking up from her knitting.

In McGraw, the Lamont Memorial Free Library’s knitting and crochet group are making hats and mittens to go with the collection of donated coats for children and adults. The library will host a coat drive today and Wednesday.

Across from Olcott, AnnMarie Mooney went back and forth on two scarf projects — when you’ve been knitting for 60 years, one project at a time just isn’t enough.

“It’s a great stress reliever,” Mooney said, “it’s a creative outlet for me.”

The two women are part of the library’s knitting group, and offered to not only knit as many hats, mittens and scarves as they could, but also to teach beginners.

“There are a lot of projects that I do, but I just love this time of year because I have a specific purpose, a goal,” Mooney said. “This is a way of giving back. We have more than 100 items for the school children already for the Elks club to distribute.”

The library will accept monetary donations and new or handmade winter accessories until the end of the month, then the Elks Lodge will bring the new coats and accessories to the Homer schools for kids to pick out their own winter outfits.

“It’s more than just a coat, we’re supposed to help make sure these kids are OK,” Jelena Barnes, executive officer for the lodge, said in September when the collection began. “With the pandemic, families are hurting even more financially, and winter clothing is an absolute necessity to keep these kids warm.”