June 17, 2019

Webster Warmth group creates care packages with knittings for refugees

Webster Warmth will be donating handmade items, including scarves and hats, to immigrants and refugees at the International Institute on Dec. 12. Webster Warmth is a six-year-old project through Webster Works Worldwide that allows staff and students to knit, crochet or quilt warm items for people in need during the cold weather.
“It’s nice when you can do something you really enjoy and then also put it towards a good cause,” co-coordinator Kathy Gaynor, Emerson librarian, said. “I think that’s probably the case with a lot of the people who made things for Webster Warmth. They enjoyed doing that anyway and so it’s just an added plus to be able to put that towards somebody who might need it.”

VICTORIA CASWELL / THE JOURNAL

Holly Hubenschmidt, head of Instruction & Liaison Services, started Webster Warmth six years ago. Gaynor stepped in to help coordinate this year and will continue the project next year. Hubenschmidt said the International Institute was chosen this year to receive donations to go along with the Year in International Human Rights theme.
On the day of Webster Works Worldwide, the library conference room was used to provide space for people to come in and work on their crafted items. Donations, however, were collected throughout the semester from anyone who wanted to participate.     “I think it’s the kind of project that’s very adaptable,” Gaynor said. “We’ve given to different types of agencies, so there’s a variety of places—either locally or not—that could continue to take these things. This is also something that people can do from home, and that’s another advantage.”
The immigrants and refugees receiving donations this year, both children and adults, may have arrived in St. Louis without having many personal items or clothing to brave the bitter winter temperatures.
Kate Howell, development and communications manager for the International Institute, said Webster Warmth is a great opportunity for the Webster community to connect with these newcomers and the recipients are, “certainly grateful for it.”
“I think it’s important for people who have enough to help those who don’t have as much,” Howell said. “It’s great for people who have talents like knitting to use their talents to share with other people.”
Hubenschmidt said she started the program after seeing an abundance of people who make crafted items as a hobby.
“It is so rewarding to take some yarn and two sticks and turn it into something useful,” Hubenschmidt. Looking ahead to next year, Gaynor said she is looking to find a place to host informal instruction sessions starting in the spring for people who would like to participate in Webster Warmth, but don’t yet know how to knit or crochet.
“There’s something about getting a homemade item that can be very touching,” Gaynor said, “Especially to some of these families who may not have much. In the case of a refugee family, maybe they had to leave a lot of stuff behind. To get a personal handmade item can mean a lot.”

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