FORT LORAMIE — It was a Sidney Daily News story that started it all.
Sally Behr, of Fort Loramie, read in the paper in August that the Joseph Connection, a worldwide religious ministry based in Sidney, needed 1,000 warm hats to distribute in Mexico.
Behr teaches crocheting and is adviser of the Merry Mods 4-H Club in Fort Loramie. She took up the challenge to provide all 1,000 hats.
She started with her Merry Mod group, but quickly realized that the youngsters would need help. So Behr sent letters to 44 families of former 4-H club members. They, in turn, shared the request with aunts, cousins, grandmothers and neighbors. To date, Behr knows of 72 people who are working on hats. Among them are three-generation families all busy with crochet needles.
“We have about 500 (hats) so far,” Behr said recently.
Sharon Geissler, who oversees the hat distribution for the Joseph Connection, was taken aback by the news. She attended a crochet session of current Merry Mod members in the Fort Loramie Community Park in September.
“I was floored (when I heard about it),” Geissler said. “I’m so grateful. This is amazing. I’m flabberghasted.” Some 300 hats have already been donated by others who heard about the drive. The Fort Loramie group will put the drive over the top and may make hats available for distribution in other needy areas.
“These hats will go to families, children, men, women, teens. They may be living on a garbage dump. They put down a piece of cardboard on top of the garbage to sleep. They may build a shelter out of cardboard or whatever they can find,” Geissler told the 4-H members.
The girls, all from Fort Loramie, took the story to heart. They already knew that what they were doing would make a difference.
“They just opened up,” Behr said about the girls’ reaction to her introducing the project in August. “They do their fair projects. It was like a job. But this, they’re happy to do it. There’s just a whole new look on their faces.”
Most of the girls are making hats for the first time, so they’re learning as they go.
“I did hats for last year’s (fair) crochet project,” said Whitney Timmerman, 11, daughter of Liz and Greg Timmerman.
“I know how to crochet, but I absolutely didn’t know how to make a hat,” said Katie Sherman, 10, daughter of Jenny and Matt Sherman.
The learning has meant some stops and starts and do-overs. Beginning the cap trips up Olivia Mescher sometimes.
“I never get it right,” the 11-year old daughter of Renee and Todd Mescher said. Ann Ruhenkamp, 9, daughter of Dianne and Jeff Ruhenkamp, can get tangled up in changing colors of yarn, she admitted.
“When you screw it up, you have to tear it out. Then you start where you were before,” she said.
The girls, however, are sanguine about their efforts.
“We’re doing the easy part. They’re (the people in Mexico) doing the hard part, living in a garbage dump,” said Victoria Mescher, 10, Olivia’s sister. “I felt good because I knew I was doing it for a good cause.”
Behr went through five or six hat patterns and made copies for anyone who needed one. She also has supplied the yarn and was delighted not long ago to find some that she could purchase for $1 per skein.
“I started with my own left-over yarn. Then people started bringing it in. Others are using their own left-overs,” she said. Many of the adults who are making the hats have created colorful designs by using yarn left over from other projects.
As far as Behr knows, the 72 people who are involved are all crocheting.
“But there may be somebody knitting, as well,” she said. She isn’t sure if the group will make it to 1,000. She was pleased to know that others have donated caps, too. The project also has given her an opportunity to teach the 4-H girls about gratitude.
“You go home and thank Mom and Dad for the house you have. You don’t have cardboard for walls. You have heat. You have food on the table,” she told them. “I’m tickled with the kids’ reaction to helping the unfortunate people. I think the parents are happy that their child is experiencing this. Not every child gets the chance to help the needy.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.