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Out & About: Give the gift of warmth

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/7/2021 12:16:10 PM
Modified: 11/7/2021 12:16:12 PM

Crocheters, knitters and other fiber artists are once again being called upon to contribute handmade winter items to the Ottauquechee Health Foundation’s Share the Warmth program.

The program was started last year as a way “to create an additional community engagement in a time when we felt that was lacking,” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Tayo Kirchhof, executive director of the Woodstock-based nonprofit organization. Another motivation was to give hats, scarves, mittens and socks to community members who needed them.

“Last year with the pandemic we have very few opportunities to show our presence around things going on in town,” said Stephen D’Agostino, who is the secretary for the nonprofit organization’s board of trustees, chair of the communications committee and organizer of Share the Warmth. “We decided we’d do something that brought people together in a community activity, but that didn’t necessarily have to be done together, sitting around in each other’s presence.”

More than 40 people made 490 items, ranging from infant to adult sizes. They started collecting items in October and distributed them through April.

“It was amazing how many items we got last year,” said D’Agostino, who knitted three hats and a scarf last year. Of the three collection days they held, the last one had the largest haul; people who donated the first time ended up making more items.

In addition to keeping items at the health center, they were distributed to locations throughout the nonprofit’s nine town coverage zone in Barnard, Bridgewater, Hartland, Killington, Plymouth, Pomfret, Quechee, Reading and Woodstock. That included food pantries and VeggieVanGo giveaways.

“We actually ended up distributing outside of those nine towns,” Kirchhof said. That included the Good Neighbor Health Clinic and Planned Parenthood in White River Junction. A collection also went to the Claremont Soup Kitchen. “We felt like why not share the warmth? Really that’s the point of the initiative.”

Staff and volunteers were surprised by the response. There were very few items left over.

“We didn’t expect that many and such an outpouring of support of the initiative that we felt it important to go beyond our border really,” Kirchhof said.

This year, items will be collected from now through Dec. 30. Crafters can drop them off from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 20, Saturday, Dec. 11, and Thursday, Dec. 30, at the Ottauquechee Health Foundation at 30 Pleasant St. If people are unable to make those times, they can contact the foundation at 802-457-4188 or to arrange a different time. Items can also be mailed to Ottauquechee Health Foundation, P.O. Box 784, Woodstock, Vt., 05091.

“Once Jan. 1 hits we convert strictly to distribution,” Kirchhof said.

On the last Saturday in October, six people gathered for a kick off event at Norman Williams Public Library and they’ve already received 40 donated items from someone who knitted them year-round.

“I was so pleased to find other people who hadn’t been involved last year getting involved this year,” D’Agostino said. “It was nice to see people come back and new people come in and really be committed to this effort.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at or 603-727-3221.

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