Threads of Compassion

Students Esther Adewumi and Julia Kolt founded the Crochet for a Cause Club at Newton College and Career Academy. Together, with the help of sponsor Kemily Pattillo, they have turned their love of needlework into a vehicle for assisting others nationwide.

by Kari Apted

One could say that 2021 high school graduates Esther Adewumi and Julia Kolt are hooked on helping others. From the time they met in middle school, the Alcovy High School and Newton College and Career Academy students found a common bond in their love of needlework, specifically crochet.

 Derived from the Old French word for “hook,” crochet is a process that uses a special type of hook to interlock yarn or thread into various textiles. Different types of stitches are used, along with a pattern, to create a hat, blanket, scarf or other useful item. Although crochet is known for the end product, experienced needleworkers can vouch for other benefits gained from the hobby. 

“It sounds silly, but the social aspect of it is what I love the most,” Adewumi said. “Everyone works on their projects together and talks.” Kolt agreed. “I love the community aspect of crocheting together,” she said. “We just crochet and talk.” 

The interpersonal aspect of crocheting was one of the factors that led Adewumi and Kolt to create the Crochet for a Cause Club at NCCA. To get started, they needed a teacher to help facilitate the program. Enter Kemily Pattillo, whom the girls describe as a “crochet genius.” Pattillo was thrilled to help launch the club. 

“It sounds silly, but the social aspect of it is what I love the most. Everyone works on their projects together and talks.”

Esther Adewumi

“We have a program at our school called Entrepreneurial Business Incubator. This program supports students in running their own businesses and provides an opportunity for the students to showcase their products during lunches a few times a year,” Pattillo said. “Esther had a booth with some of her crocheted items. I bought a crochet flower from her and mentioned that I love to crochet. Later, she and Julia came to me with the idea of starting the club. I loved the idea and agreed right away.”

The group has met for two years to crochet, socialize and teach students and faculty their craft. However, their most impressive accomplishment is donating more than 100 handmade hats, scarves and quilt squares to multiple nonprofit organizations nationwide. They have a goal of doubling that number during the 2021-22 school year. Recipients of Crochet for a Cause items include: 

Project Chemo Crochet: Accepts 9×9-inch crocheted squares that are used to make quilts for people undergoing cancer treatment in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The Red Scarf Project: Provides red scarves to foster children as they age out of the system and move on to college.

Operation Gratitude: Welcomes gifts of handmade hats and scarves to include in the care packages they ship to deployed military personnel worldwide.

Project Linus: Collects blankets at chapters located in all 50 states. Blankets are distributed to children in need, including the seriously ill, children of deployed soldiers and kids living in shelters or foster care.

Hat Not Hate: Distributes handmade blue hats to  elementary students during National Bullying Prevention  Month each October, empowering kids to stand up to bullying. 

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During the coronavirus pandemic, Crochet for a Cause switched to student-hosted virtual meetings, with everyone working on their projects independently at home. Pattillo has found that the club members love learning this hands-on skill.

“This year especially, at the end of the day, everyone was beyond ready to get off the screen and do something with their hands,” Pattillo said. Adewumi, Kolt and Pattillo love learning new stitches and patterns and credit YouTube videos for much of their instruction. “YouTube is a good way to learn how to crochet,” Pattillo said, “but it really depends on your learning style. Other people would benefit from joining a group like ours to receive hands-on teaching.”

The women enjoy making a variety of projects, but all three prefer crocheting one item the most: hats. “Making hats is one of my biggest flexes,” Kolt said with a laugh. “I crochet in the dark a lot, too. It’s really calming and therapeutic.”

While club members will continue to do the majority of their crocheting on their own time, the club looks forward to returning to in-person weekly meetings soon. However, it will be under new student leadership, as Adewumi and Kolt head off to college. Adewumi will be attending Mercer University while Kolt moves to Claremont, California, to attend Harvey Mudd College. Both women plan to remain involved with the club as much as possible and will continue to donate their work to the nonprofits the group supports. Pattillo will remain the club’s sponsor and invites the community to get involved. 

“We would love for the community to donate hats or scarves they’ve made or received, and we’re happy to accept yarn and hook donations,” she said. “We are also available if someone wants to reach out about a need, for example if a chemo unit or homeless shelter needs hats or scarves.” 

Interested donors can reach Pattillo by email at (Subject: Crochet) or leave a voicemail at NCCA by calling 678-625-6769.

Click here to read more stories by Kari Apted.

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