Associate professor of Religious Studies, Regina Pfeiffer, DMin, looked over her supply of yarns and crochet needles. Students participating in the Caring Crocheters service-learning project sorted through the material provided. Many had already wound unending threads into balls from skeins and hanks of yarn.
Throughout the semester, Pfeiffer taught her students the basics of crocheting and offered continued guidance as they advanced through their projects. It usually took only three to four sessions to master the skill. Once mastered, students were welcome to work independently.
By the end of the fall semester, participants had each completed a baby blanket. Some students also crocheted booties, scarves and hats. The finished crocheted pieces went to the U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii New Parent Support Program, which assists military families who are expecting a child or have at least one child age zero to three.
Feedback from the agency and the military families that it serves have been quite positive. “Often, enlisted troops are separated from their families. Spouses with new babies may be living alone in a new area, without family or friends for support. We crochet baby blankets, washcloths, hats, scarves, and other items. These become personal, hand-made gifts for new families of enlisted troops,” Pfeiffer explained. “The military families also benefit because they realize that someone they don’t even know cares about the sacrifices they give to our nation.”
Pfeiffer started the Caring Crocheters service-learning project in fall 2014 and has just finished her fifth semester with the project. She is pleased with how popular it continues to be. Students have reflected on how much they have enjoyed the project and how it has helped them relieve stress. Crocheting provided students with the means to cope with hectic lives, be creative and take risks by trying something that they may never have considered. When students create fabric by interlocking loops of yarn using a simple hook needle, they invest themselves into the pieces that they are creating.
“Our society sustains itself on bought items rather than on creative activities from which they give a part of themselves in terms of time and talent,” Pfeifer commented.
Pfeiffer shared another big takeaway from this service-learning experience. The students are asked to give away their piece anonymously. That piece represents a piece of themselves, and so they experience doing something good and giving themselves without any expectation in return.