By Eric Lagatta, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Student employees at Ohio Dominican University’s Computer Helpdesk are putting away the electronics to knit hats and scarves they plan to hand out to homeless men and women. Their goal is to have 500 items to donate by Thanksgiving and Christmas.
They may work in technology, but whenever they have some downtime, student employees at Ohio Dominican University’s computer help desk happily put away the electronics.
Instead of idly scrolling through their phones in between service calls, they pick up a round loom and some yarn and start knitting.
“You’re not just playing on your phone,” said Lorelei Theve, a freshman marketing and public relations major at the small Catholic university on the Northeast Side. “You’re actually making something.”
Theve, who is from Grove City, is one of eight student employees at the help desk who actively knits hats — and sometimes scarves and blankets — that they plan to hand out to homeless men and women in the fall and winter.
The effort began in December when Noelle Lines, Ohio Dominican’s assistant director of Technical Services, talked to the students about her love of knitting. One day, Lines brought in supplies and sat with them during breaks to teach them the craft. All told, it took about just 20 minutes for them to pick it up.
“As soon as she shows you, it’s so easy to go off and do it,” Theve said. “You can really bust it out.”
Many of the students continued with the hobby during their winter break — Theve, for instance, said she knitted several hats as Christmas gifts for friends and family — so when they returned to campus, they hatched a plan.
Lines said she often sees homeless men and women around Galloway, where she lives, so she asked the students if they’d like to knit warm items for them to protect them from the cold. The students’ enthusiasm for the cause immediately was palpable.
“I jumped right on board,” said Lancaster native Skyler Vance, a junior majoring in both biology and chemistry. “I think it’s amazing.”
The group set a goal of 500 hats that they plan to start handing out in person around Thanksgiving and Christmastime. However, it’s a target that Lines said she fully expects them to eclipse after the students took to the initiative with a zeal she could never have anticipated. Already they have about 80 hats, scarves and other warm items of various hues and patterns.
“I was proud of how excited they are to be doing something for someone else” Lines said. “They have the power to drive change; they can take 20 minutes of their time and do something so profound and have a product they can hold in their hands and help another person.”
The students not only work on the hats during their breaks at work, but between classes and even at the end of the day when they’re at home.
On a recent day, spools of yarn of varying colors were splayed across a table in Lines’ office as four of the students cheerfully worked on hats. Piled in the corner were the fruits of their labors thus far.
Lines provided the looms and restocks most of the yarn with her own money, making it all accessible to the students in a box outside her office.
But the students as well often venture to a nearby Michaels craft store to buy their own supplies. The creativity that comes from experimenting with a variety of colors and designs is part of the fun, they said.
“We call them our help desk field trips,” Vance said. “We go to Michaels and we’re like, ‘Let’s pick all the random colors.'”
Vance estimated that it takes anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to complete a hat, depending on the size. The students said their time spent knitting is often meditative, a welcome respite from the stresses of school.
“It’s relaxing,” said Reynoldsburg resident Jon Caruso, a senior majoring in computer science. “It takes my mind off of stuff.”
“I’d rather be knitting than doing homework,” Vance agreed.
The charitable component is also motivating. Most of the students have volunteered their time to worthy causes in the past — Caruso with his church, Vance with the Fairfield Area Humane Society and Theve with the Buckeye Ranch, which provides mental health services for children and families.
“It’s always been a thing in my family where you just help out where you can,” Theve said. “It’s really important to use that privilege in a productive way.”
Even though Caruso graduates in May, he said he plans to join the others when they venture into central Ohio neighborhoods to hand out the items. And despite the amount of hours they’ve put into the products, the students say it won’t be hard to part with them.
“When we go to hand them out it’ll make it even more meaningful,” Vance said. “It shows the impact you can have on your community by doing something so small.”
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