Stella Pappas has knit 100 hats (so far!) this year for JVC’s Community Mitzvah Day. Last year, she donated 120 – although it would have been more if it weren’t for the blizzard in February 2010.
“There were men out shoveling our sidewalks during the blizzard. They weren’t wearing any hats, and I couldn’t bear the sight of them in the cold without something to cover their ears, … so I went out and gave them hats from my pile for Mitzvah Day. I didn’t think you would mind,” she told me last year.
Stella first found out about Community Mitzvah Day in 2009. She saw a flyer for the project, which asked volunteers to knit or crochet hats and scarves to be included in winter care packages, distributed to Baltimore’s less fortunate on Christmas Day. Last year, 1,200 packages were delivered. She was delighted to have found such a project, and immediately committed to knit 10 hats a month for the coming year.
“When I was a little girl in New York I learned to knit at the knees of Jewish women. Every afternoon the kids would play in the streets and the mothers would knit on the front stoop – and I would watch them. I was just five or six at the time, but they saw me looking at them and they asked me if I wanted to learn. They showed me how to cast on the stitches and how to knit. From there on out, it took off like it was part of my life. It seems so fitting that I would return the favor by knitting for Jewish Volunteer Connection – It struck me in my heart!” said Stella.
Individuals like Stella, as well as groups in nursing homes, community centers and even college campuses are making hats and scarves by hand for Mitzvah Day.
“This type of volunteerism is attractive to a diverse group of people,” said JVC’s Executive Director Ashley Pressman. “It’s something that can be done on your own time, with your own two hands.”
Beyond that, it addresses such a basic need for both the volunteer and the recipient. Volunteers are able to make a contribution to the community and keep themselves busy and engaged in a creative process. Recipients are given a handmade gift that will warm their heads and hearts through Baltimore’s unpredictable winters.
A member of the Greek Orthodox Church right next door to THE ASSOCIATED’s offices on Maryland Avenue, Stella said she connects on a deeper level to this project.
“I love the concept of Mitzvah Dayand, even more, I love that it takes place on Christmas Day. We’re Christians and you are Jews – but we’re all on the same boat, doing good for people. I really enjoy doing it.”