Knit Wits knitting group weaves spirit of giving at RIC and beyond
Among the members of the Knit Wits knitting group are (seated, from left) Mary Olenn, Jane Lindberg, Myra Blank and Nancy Hoogasian; standing,
from left are Linda Sansevero, Ellen Fingeret, Barbara Kingston, Ann Roccio and Linda Kent-Davis.
Mary Olenn, director of RIC’s Office of Health Promotion, is always on the lookout for ways to inspire others on campus to be healthy. When she discovered the health benefits associated with knitting and crocheting earlier this year, she decided to form the Knit Wits, a group of faculty-and-staff knitters with a variety of skill levels.
“Our goal was just to participate, share, and learn the health benefits of this together,” said Olenn.
Knitting and crocheting lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and provide a sense of calm and tranquility during tough times, according to Olenn. She said the group offers a “safe, comfortable place for people to come together to de-stress.”
Members were also determined to do some good for the community while feeling good health-wise. Since September, they have hand-crafted over 100 garments including hats, scarves and shawls to be donated to several organizations and causes such as the Crossroads Homeless Shelter and Woman & Infants Hospital.
Jane Lindberg of Academic Affairs led the group with her knowledge of knitting, while Barbara Kingston and Ann Roccio at Student Life spread the word around campus, Olenn said. Jeanne D’Agostino from Athletics introduced the group to the North Scituate Baptist Church, which accepts prayer shawls, and Linda Kent-Davis from Career Development contributed supplies and her considerable talent to the knitting project, Olenn added.
The Knit Wits met every Wednesday throughout the semester to share project ideas, hand in finished items, and to help one another with technical knitting issues. “There was a real sense of sharing. For some it was a chance to brush up on their skills, and some had never done this before,” Olenn said.
The effort also generated support from others. Those at RIC who couldn’t participate did their part by donating materials. Lands’ End, a national clothing retailer, selected the Knit Wits to receive a large donation of yarn to make sweaters and scarves for the American Indians of the Northwest.
Olenn continued her knitting during a recent trip to the British Virgin Islands, where she donated warm hats to the newborn obstetrical unit at Peebles Hospital. “They were really touched,” she said. “Even in such a hot climate, newborn babies need hats because they don’t have the ability to control body temperature.”
Some of the over 100 knitted and crocheted creations by the Knit Wits.
Barbara Kingston grew to enjoy needlepointing through her involvement with the group. “At first, I wasn’t going to participate because I didn’t know how to crochet or knit, but I really enjoyed it,” she said. “I found it really relaxing and I picked up on the crocheting really well.”
Some participants plan to continue meeting throughout the winter break. Next semester, Olenn plans to reach out to more students to join the group, which currently numbers 18.
Overall, the knitting project grew to be more than just a source of calm during times of stress. “There has been a warm spirit of camaraderie and a sense of satisfaction on many levels,” Olenn said. “We have all become more aware of community needs and have been pleased to do our small part both individually and collectively to help out in the community beyond the college.”