Community service group to host United We Knit event

Ashley Gremel of Rockford helps to donate hand-knit items to Mel Trotter in Grand Rapids.

Ashley Gremel of Rockford helps to donate hand-knit items to Mel Trotter in Grand Rapids.

Over 700 hand-knit items to be donated to Grand Rapids Home for Veterans

In the aftermath of the Civil War, the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans was constructed to meet the needs of Michigan veterans. Today, the home continues to serve as a symbol of Michigan’s promise to her veterans, providing compassionate, quality, interdisciplinary care for its 700+ residents so that they may achieve their highest potential of independence, self-worth, wellness and dignity.

Throughout the home’s 124-year history, countless individuals and organizations have stepped up to help those who selflessly served our nation. Many veteran residents have limited support from family, and as Frank Snarski, director of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, succinctly noted, “Community support is critical in meeting the physical and emotional needs of our veterans.”

Fortunately, two organizations are combining forces to help kick off the decade and ensure that the residents of the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans remain warm throughout the winter.

Cast Off the Cold, a community service initiative based in Rockford, is hosting United We Knit on Sunday, Jan. 24, from 1 to 5 p.m. in the David D. Hunting YMCA Community Room, located at 475 Lake Michigan Dr., downtown Grand Rapids. The goal of the event is to knit and collect scarves, hats and mittens, which will be given to the veterans as Valentine’s gifts.

Free parking for the YMCA is available in Dash Lots 7 and 9, north and west of the YMCA main entrance. The event is free and open to the public.

Cast Off the Cold was founded in 2007 by Ashley Gremel, when she was a 15-year-old Rockford High School sophomore. To date, Cast Off has donated more than 1,500 scarves and hand-knit items to homeless shelters in West Michigan and Lansing.

Gremel invites knitters of all ages and levels of experience to join her and other Cast Off contributors at the United We Knit event. “This is a great opportunity to show our thanks for our veterans, and also have some fun with fellow knitters,” said Gremel. “We will have volunteers to help beginners, plus complimentary refreshments. For decades, groups have been hosting ‘knit ins’ as a way to serve our country… from knitting socks, hats, mittens and scarves during the American Revolution to current care packages for our troops. The simple act of taking time to create a hand-knit item for a stranger is very rewarding.”

For those who cannot attend or do not knit, Gremel suggests the following alternatives:

• Drop off yarn, hats, scarves and mittens at the Community Room on Sunday, Jan. 24.

• Spread the word to friends and family.

• Drop off completed hand-knit items to Cast Off the Cold collection centers (J.T. Stitchery, 30 E. Bridge St., Rockford, 616-866-2409, or Country Needleworks, 584 Chicago Dr., Jenison, 616-457-9410).

Cyndy Vogt, association director of marketing and communications for the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, noted, “We are thrilled to host United We Knit in our community room at the David D. Hunting YMCA. The YMCA puts Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy mind, spirit and body for all. This mission is put into action every day by the many volunteers who spend time making the YMCA the place it is. Cast Off the Cold aligns with our mission, and we are honored to help facilitate this event. And, as a Navy mom, I am thrilled Cast Off came to us to host this great event.”

For more information, visit www.castoffthecold.com, www.grymca.org, or www.michigan.gov/dmva.

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