Students give back to community while learning valuable skills


Avery Bounds (far left), president of the student-run organization “Knitting for Those in Need”, teaches Marteze Roper, a junior finance major, Brooklyn Hill, a sophmore psychology major, and Katrinka Stephens, a sophmore zoology major, how to knit a scarf. “Knitting for Those in Need” had its first meeting on January 23, 2012. Photo by MELANIE NESTERUK.

Christina Suttles

Fifteen minutes before her first meeting as president of Knitting for Those in Need (KTN) begins, Avery Bounds struts through the fourth floor of the student library, scavenging for extra knitting looms.

“I guess we’re just going to have to teach people how to knit with needles,” she tells other senior members of the organization.

The junior entrepreneur major has been a part of the club since she was a freshman at Kent State and considers herself to be a skilled knitter, which is what originally attracted her to the organization’s booth at the 2011 freshman Blastoff.

“I’ve been knitting since freshman year of high school,” she said. “It was the summer and I didn’t want to be bored all summer so I just started to do it.”

Last April, KTN won the New Service Initiative 2011-2012 Award and a Service Excellence Award at the Student Leadership and Honors Awards Ceremony for their contributions to the community.

“It was nice to realize people knew we were out there because sometimes it feels like no one knows we’re out there,” she said.

Diane Baldridge founded Knitting for Those in Need in Fall 2011. She wanted to start a nonprofit organization that would cater to the Kent community and beyond.

The idea for KTN came when Baldridge, now a senior general studies major, was working as a youth and young adult programs and services specialist at the American Red Cross. She was putting together a leadership camp for volunteers, and her mom suggested she teach them knitting.

“I had students from different walks of life and economic and ethnic backgrounds and was looking for something that all of them could do and feel they were on common ground,” she said. “The knitting offered that as they would all learn the skill for the first time at the camp and would support each other to complete hats for a common goal.”

After many years off from college, Baldridge decided to finish her degree at Kent State. She worked with the KSU Women’s Center and decided to teach a knitting seminar to students. So many people signed up that they had to put some on a waiting list.

Students began asking Baldridge to teach their groups and classes. A colleague suggested that instead of making the knitting club a nonprofit organization right off the bat, she should start a student organization to receive the support of the university. So Knitting for Those in Need was born.

Since its creation, KTN has donated more than 1,000 handmade hats and scarves to humanitarian organizations such as Anonymous Relief Mission, which assists members of the Kent community in moving out of shelters into housing; Kent Social Services; the Women’s Center; and Freedom House. Jo-Ann Fabrics donates a majority of the yarn that the group uses, and the remainder of their supplies, such as hooks and needles, come from personal donations.

KTN is also in the process of finalizing the paperwork to become an unincorporated nonprofit association, which will be the first step to becoming an official non-profit organization, Baldridge said.

The group actively tries to be “culturally sensitive” in what it produces in order to meet the needs of those it’s serving. Baldridge said she’s learned that homeless individuals and people living in shelters prefer much different outerwear.

“Homeless people are not necessarily that interested in bright colors because they prefer to blend in,” she said. “While those living in the shelters may prefer more colorful and frilly hats and scarves – something a little more fashionable.”

Bounds became an active member of the community when Baldridge saw superior skill in her craftsmanship. Bounds said there’s always been something about knitting that helps her to de-stress and enjoy the company of others around her. For this reason, she said, KTN is an excellent place for students to meet one another and pick up a new hobby in the process.

“We have a chance to get to know each other,” she said. “You’re sitting and knitting and you have nothing else to do but talk, and you really get to know the people who are around you.”

This is what makes the club so alluring, Bounds said. KTN receives at least a few new members every meeting and it has attracted more than a dozen permanent members who attend the twice-weekly meetings, many of whom never knitted before joining the group.

Bounds doesn’t want students to be discouraged by their inexperience with the trade. As she’s explaining the difference between loom and needle knitting, she’s patiently demonstrating to a group of rookies how to position their needles; lending them a reassuring giggle when it takes them a little longer than it should.

“The loom is a plastic circle, or rectangular for scarves, and it has pegs on it and you basically wrap the yarn around the pegs, it’s really, really easy,” she said.

Last Wednesday was sophomore accounting major Toni Zumpano’s first time attending a KTN meeting. She heard about it during last semester’s 12-hour knit-a-thon, which attracted more than 100 participants who knitted more than 100 items.

“I’ve been knitting and crocheting for a while,” she said. “It’s pretty easy to learn.”

Zumpano was chatting with freshman pre-fashion design major Jessica Baker, who said that was her first time knitting.

“I’m really addicted to this,” she said. “I think this is a new hobby of mine.”

For an amateur, Baker has already taken nicely to the loom in her right hand. She said what led her to the group, other than her fashion fundamentals class, was the opportunity to help people in need.

“If I’m fortunate enough to have what I have, I want to help someone who doesn’t have that,” Baker said. “And it’s getting really cold outside so I’m grateful that we have the opportunity to do this.”

Contact Christina Suttles at [email protected].