Every Wednesday, a group of students who call themselves the Kommunity Knitters gather in King Albert Hall to snack, talk and knit warm scarves for the homeless.
Students Kilee Jordan-Sibley and Kiersten Garcia are the group’s founders. Last April, the two realized that their hobby could be used to fill a need in the community. According to a 2013 report by the City of Portland, the city’s homeless population has increased 2 percent since 2011. Many homeless people lack suitable warm clothes, especially in the winter months.
At Kommunity Knitters meetings, the group provides needles and yarn for anyone who doesn’t have them on hand and teaches others how to knit if they’re interested in helping out but have no experience with needlework.
Everything members knit or crochet is donated to the Portland Rescue Mission, a
Christian charity dedicated to helping the homeless by providing food, shelter and addiction recovery treatment.
Kommunity Knitters started out as a way for Jordan-Sibley and Garcia to apply their knowledge in a way that could benefit others. They were inspired by a retreat led by Cru, a Christian club on campus, which they say encouraged them to give back to their city.
“We went to one of the Cru retreats, and they encouraged us to use things we were interested in,” Garcia said. “They encouraged us to take a more active role in serving the community. We have the resources—yarn is not expensive. What we really want is to get as much [as possible] to the Portland Rescue Mission…the maximum amount of people we could help would be best.
“God instructed us to do work in the community, to help out, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
For students who are busy trying to balance classes with part-time jobs or other commitments, it can be difficult to find time to volunteer or get involved with a cause. According to Jordan-Sibley, knitting can be an easy, convenient way to contribute.
“We want to be useful,” she said. “We’re college students and we don’t have that much money, and we don’t have that much time, but there’s one thing we can do: We can knit. We can knit while doing things. We’re using a common interest and hobby to fulfill a purpose like God directs us to.”
Interest in the club has increased as winter approaches, Garcia said, adding that people realize how difficult it must be as a homeless person in the colder weather.
“Right now we’re amassing; we’re collecting a bunch of things so we can donate it all in one go, ideally in this holiday season,” Jordan-Sibley said. “Through Cru, we got kind of connected with the Portland Rescue Mission just by going and serving dinner. We thought, ‘It’s freezing outside and these people don’t have anything, so why don’t we use our skills?’ That’s our goal with Kommunity Knitters.”
Meetings provide a way for the knitters to meet up and gather completed projects, work on new ones and bond over their shared interest.
“We meet in Kilee’s room, and usually we have snacks,” Garcia said. “It’s very relaxed. You just knit, and you can do anything while knitting. You can have a full-on conversation while knitting. It’s a place to hang out and eat food, talk about things and do something for the community.
“That’s exactly what Kommunity Knitters is.”
The Knitters aim to gain enough membership for the club to continue after the founders graduate, ensuring that so people will keep knitting and donating their knitted goods.
“We wanted to pass along this feeling we have toward service, getting other people interested and excited in the community, even using something like one of your interests,” Jordan-Sibley said.
“I would hope when people see us, they think ‘They’re using knitting to affect the community? How crazy of an idea is that? Maybe I can use [for example] my cooking to do something.’ You really can use anything—any skill, any talent, any hobby—to do something, if you really think about it and stay committed to it.”