EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 13, 2012

Meet Haverhill's hat lady

Elderly woman has knitted 285 caps for military -- and counting

By Mike LaBella
mlabella@eagletribune.com

---- — HAVERHILL — Tucked inside every hat that Kay Poole knits is a special note of thanks.

It’s her way of telling men and women in the military who receive her heartfelt gift how much she appreciates their service to our country.

”Please know that wherever you are, what you are doing for America is greatly appreciated,” her note reads. “Hope this hat, made for a true hero, keeps you warm, and my prayers keep you safe. May God bless you and bring you home soon.”

Poole signs each note, “From a great-grandmother in Haverhill, Mass., who cares.”

Like elves in Santa’s workshop, Poole, along with members of a knitting group at the Citizens Center, gather on Mondays to make hats, mittens, scarves, blankets and other comforting items for children and adults in the community and in the military. They do this year round, but during the holiday season they rev up their efforts.

”They do it while they are chatting and having a great time,” said Kathy Bresnahan, Council on Aging activities coordinator. “A lot of it is camaraderie, as some of them live alone and this is a social outlet for them. It’s really a win-win. It makes them feel great and it makes for a toasty winter for those in need.”

”I knit all the time and probably do four or five a week,” said Poole, who is 81. “My grandchildren call me the hat lady.”

Poole began knitting hats for members of the military several years ago and recently finished knitting her 285th hat for members of the armed forces. Other than taking a break during the summer, she knits year round.

”I enjoy doing it and feel that it’s very little compared to the great sacrifice they are making,” Poole said of those in the military. “The thing I’m most proud of are my hats for the military. We can’t forget them.”

Poole began her project of knitting and giving three years ago as a member of a knitting group at St. John the Baptist Church. A woman in her group brought the hats to Hanscom Air Force base, where they were sent to members of the military. When the church knitting group dissolved, Poole joined the group at the Citizens Center. She continues to knit hats and gives them to the same woman who brings them to Hanscom.

”I make a lot of hats, including for underprivileged kids,” she said.

Other members of the knitting group use their talents in similar ways, including making lap blankets for veterans in hospitals and baby blankets and sweaters for the Pregnancy Care Center, which support single mothers.

”I just gave 60 hats to Somebody Cares (the Somebody Cares New England organization), and 60 hats for children at the Crowell School, where my children attended years ago,” she said. “My daughter works for the court system and she gives them to a social worker who hands them out at a Christmas party to children who are victims of abuse.”

”I hear from the Crowell every year,” she said. “They send me a nice letter thanking me for the hats and I’ve kept every one of them.”

Poole guesses she’s knitted hundreds of hats for children at Crowell.

I do a girl’s hat, a boy’s hat and a troop (soldier’s) cap, which are worn under their helmets,” she said.

There are rules — Poole can only use dark green, dark brown or black yarn when knitting caps for the military.

”When I started this at the church, I was given instructions because they wear them under the helmets,” she said.

But for kids, she gets more colorful.

”I like to make girls (hats) with a little pizzazz, a little design and in a variety of bright colors,” Poole said. “For the boys, the most popular are red white and blue, the colors of the New England Patriots. My daughter says the boys go crazy over those.”

She buys some of the yarn, while some people donate to her efforts and those of others in her knitting group.

”People hear about what I’m doing and donate,” Poole said. “I do like to buy the yarn for the troop hats as it’s my contribution. I like to feel like that I’m giving them something as they are special.

”A lot of people come by with bags and bags of yarn,” Poole said. “Some members of our group make chemo caps for children. We all knit for a purpose. It’s a great bunch of women.”

The knitting club meets every Monday from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Citizens Center and anyone is welcome to join.

”It’s a very giving group of women,” Poole said.

Bresnahan praised the knitting group and said members give their time and energy to make items that are distributed to various organizations, such as Head Start, the Pregnancy Care Center, veterans hospitals, local food pantries and homeless shelters.

”We are always seeking donations of clean yarn in good condition,” Bresnahan said.

Anyone wishing to donate to the Council on Aging knitting club can drop off yarn at the Citizens Center, 10 Welcome St., or call Kathy Bresnahan or Rita LaBella at 978-374-2165.