For the past five years, the Knit N Crochet Club has not only brought together hobbyists at the university, but has facilitated continued service to the Newark community by NJIT students.
Since its inception, the club has been dedicated to serving the Newark community. As described by Lois Chipepo, the assistant dean for enrollment of the Albert Dorman Honors College and adviser for the club, the organization was formed when the founders went directly to the community to identify a need that could be addressed.
In those initial stages, they visited local shelters and other charitable institutions, such as the Red Cross and Salvation Army, in addition to local churches. They identified the need for winter weather accessories, such as hats, mittens, and scarves, and decided to form a club with the intention of bringing NJIT students together and using their hobby and talents to benefit the community.
Since its founding, the Knit N Crochet Club has steadily grown in popularity and boasted nearly 100 members in the Fall 2018 semester. Ellen Ren, a senior biology student and president of the club, noted that the success of their service project from last semester is indicative of how much the organization has grown, both in its membership and impact.
“Last semester, we collected over 500 toiletry items, and between 100 to 200 knit items to donate to the shelters. We were very happily surprised by the positive response of students and everyone’s willingness to help. Everyone’s contributions really made the project come together,” said Ren.
The toiletry drive was a new addition to the club’s initiatives last semester. Chipepo notified the club’s e-board that several homeless shelters in Newark had closed before the winter, at a time when they are most needed by the community. As a result, the club decided to spearhead the toiletry drive as an additional way to give back to the community, in addition to their usual donations of knit items.
The new initiative was enthusiastically received, and Ren thanked members for their contributions, without which their service project would not have been nearly as successful. Part of last semester’s service project’s success can be attributed to the club’s partnership with the Evergreen Kids Academy, a preschool in Closter, NJ.
Students at the school also participated in the toiletry drive by collecting items, assembling donation bags, and making drawings for the recipients. Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service fraternity on campus, also assisted with putting together and distributing the donation boxes.
In addition to the toiletries, about 150 knit items were donated. These included scarves, blankets, hats, baby blankets, mittens, and stuffed animals. Apart from toiletries and knit items, the club was even able to donate a laptop.
Each semester, the club tries to switch up the community organization with which they partner. In previous semesters, they worked with St. John’s Soup Kitchen and the Salvation Army. This past semester, members of the club, accompanied by Chipepo and Dr. Lorna Ronald, the Honors College associate director for prestigious fellowships and honors advising, went to The Apostles’ House Shelter to personally deliver the items.
Tina Thomas, a junior biomedical engineering major and volunteer coordinator for the club, was one of the members who went on the trip. Thomas enjoyed the experience, saying, “It was really nice to go there, because we got to see the kids there, and see them try on the hats. Everyone was so excited when we went there.”
Patricia Sarcauga, a junior biomedical engineering major and secretary for the club, mentioned that as a freshman, she volunteered at The Apostles’ House during service day at orientation. She remembered the shelter and her positive experiences there when thinking of ideas for whom the club could partner with and said that, “[The Apostles’ House] would be nice because we could directly interact with the people receiving the donations.”
The Apostles’ House, which actually consists of two houses, provides support to people of different ages. “We wanted to service a variety of people,” Thomas added.
The Knit N Crochet Club went to the house that specifically serves single mothers and their children. Chipepo said, “[The residents of the shelter] were very touched to see people in the community who care.”
Building off their successful service project from the fall, this semester the Knit N Crochet Club is excited for new partnerships to continue to grow the club. They plan to hold a book drive this semester, in addition to creating knit and crochet items for donation. They are also excited to work with JerseySTEM, a non-profit volunteer teaching organization on potential classes and outreach to local schools.
The club is always open to new members, regardless of their knitting/crocheting ability. Members span the range of beginner, intermediate, and advanced ability, and while many members come in with some understanding, there are also a substantial number who are completely novice.
Club members are more than willing to teach new members a skill that can be used to give back to the community and serve as a personal stress-reliever. For information on club meetings and how to join, contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.