This story was a joy to report. From today's New Castle Courier-Times.
By Donna Cronk
Melody Sutherland Ruth grew up in New Castle and while her folks have since passed on and she rarely returns, she wanted to do something for her hometown.
Ruth, a Hockessin, Delaware resident, was chatting with her New Castle Chrysler High School Class of 1975 classmate, Deb Ferrell, and learned about the Guest House men’s shelter where currently 28 men reside.
Ruth decided to knit 30 hats for the men in a variety of colors out of thick yarn.
She isn’t sure how long it took to assemble the hats because due to the portable nature of knitting projects, she often takes them along wherever she goes and knits in 10- and 15-minute sessions while waiting for appointments and such. She sent the finished hats to Ferrell last week and she delivered the full box to Guest House Executive Director Bruce Aaron.
“It warms your heart ...” Aaron said of the donation. He planned to hand them out right away.
Aaron said that while the shelter gets donations of money, clothing and toiletries, these gifts were personal and touching.
“It gets a hold of your heart that somebody would have that compassion that far away,” he said. “It’s humbling.”
For the knitter, the project is inspired by her late mother, Irma Sutherland, who would now be 102 and passed away in 1999.
“My mom did a lot of charity work,” Ruth said. “I think Mom would like that (the knitted hats).”
She said her New Castle mother was known for homemade noodles that were in demand from friends. She didn’t want to be paid for them but decided that if noodle-recipients wanted to put some money in her jar, she would use it to buy coats for kids at the Christian Love Help Center.
Ruth’s father, Paul, has been gone for more than 40 years.
She said her mother didn’t have a lot of money, but she could always come up with funds to help others. The daughter’s takeaway is that it doesn’t cost a lot to be able to do something for people in homeless shelters.
“I wanted them to know that somebody took the time to make them something,” Ruth said.
Ferrell is impressed with her friend’s follow-through on the project, not merely paying it lip service as people often do.
“It was born out of her compassion for people in her hometown,” Ferrell said.
The Guest House, 1407 Walnut St., is more than five years old and has sheltered between 400 and 500 men in that time. This year alone, more than 100 have lived there.
Ruth, now retired, has worked as a special educator, group-home director and fraud analyst for a major credit card company. She has knitted for 10 years. Her hope is that her effort will inspire someone else.
"It gets a hold of your heart that somebody would have that compassion that far away. It's humbling."