I like stories about people who want to help others and then do it by sharing whatever skill they have.
Mary Wiltenburg writes in the Christian Science Monitor about a woman who conveys her love of knitting to men in prison. It took persistence to make it happen.
“The first warden Lynn Zwerling approached with her idea recoiled as if she might bite. The second wouldn’t meet with her. The third claimed to love the idea, then fell out of touch. Outrageous, said the fourth.
“The fifth, Margaret Chippendale, at a minimum-security men’s prison outside Baltimore, didn’t have much hope for Ms. Zwerling’s plan either.
” ‘She brought the program to me and told me: “Your inmates will get hooked. It will relax them, empower them,” ‘ remembers Ms. Chippendale, a 40-year veteran of Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. ‘And my gut reaction is: “Lynn, I’m always looking for ways to do that, but I’m not sure I’m going to get a bunch of big, macho guys to sit around a table and knit.” ‘ …
“Now, nearly three years later, 254 felons have passed through the Knitting Behind Bars program. Its annual budget is $350, which Zwerling and fellow volunteers raise selling yarn-ball necklaces at the annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Other donations come through Ravelry.com, a social network for knitters. …
“Adam Hoover is working on an electric blue-and-black striped hat, a fresh pirate skeleton tattoo still raw on his pale forearm.
“The idea that participants give many of the knitted hats they make to local elementary school students appealed to Mr. Hoover. ‘I know how it feels to be out there in the winter sometimes,’ he says. …
“Hoover and [inmate] Harris say the group is a place where they can relax and let their guard down. As they say this, the group falls silent while a red-faced young man with a spider-web tattoo on his neck tells Zwerling about his little brother’s troubles in foster care.
“Nowhere else in the prison do guys share their personal struggles like this, whispers Hoover. ‘I think the ladies bring it out of you,’ says James Russell, working on a pale blue hat beside Hoover. ‘They just have an ease, like you can talk to them about anything. Like a mother would do.’ “
Photograph: Joanne Ciccarello/Christian Science Monitor
Lynn Zwerling, cofounder of Knitting Behind Bars, sits in front of the Jessup Pre-Release Unit in Jessup, Md., where she teaches inmates to knit.