This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Last winter, volunteer Deborah Cooper was in the Houston Elementary School library that she had helped to rebuild. A group of kindergartners were there enjoying the books, despite the chill in the air.
Volunteers hard at work on the scarf project for Houston Elementary students. (Photo: Jacqueline B. Boulden)
The library can get cold on frigid days, Cooper said, and she thought how nice it would be to give scarves to all the kindergartners. Then, she thought, why not knit them for all the Houston students, kindergarten through 8th grade?
Cooper, a Mount Airy resident who has volunteered at the neighborhood school for four years, logged onto Nextdoor.com, the social media site, and asked whether any neighbors would like to knit for Houston. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive.
“It was such a lovely feeling,” she said.
Seventy volunteers spent months working on the project. One woman who attended Houston 65 years ago and now lives in Minneapolis heard about the effort and made two scarves. One volunteer made 62. Another neighbor asked to be taught to knit so she could participate. By the time they finished, the volunteers had knitted and crocheted nearly 500 scarves.
Volunteer Elayne Bender, principal LeRoy Hall Jr., and school volunteer and scarf project organizer Deborah Cooper. (Photo: Jacqueline B. Boulden)
On Thursday, 25 boxes of scarves lined the stage at Houston Elementary. There was one box for each classroom – one scarf for each student, plus one for each teacher, and a few extra so that every student could have a choice of colors and patterns.
Students pick out their scarves at Houston. (Photo: Jacqueline B. Boulden)
There were even enough extra to donate to Lingelbach Elementary School in neighboring Germantown. Inspired, volunteers in that school want to start their own scarf project.
Cooper is very pleased about how the project grew and grew.
“People,” she said, “just want to do something.”