I belong to the Lend A Hand Circle in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and I love to knit. The best way to combine my love for knitting and service for others resulted in me participating with my Circle in two projects where I donate items I knit.

At the end of each year, the Circle collects knit and various other items for the Sea Mariners project called Christmas At Sea (CAS), an affiliation with The Seamen’s Church Institute. The Institute is the largest and most comprehensive mariners’ service organization in North America. Founded in 1834, the Institute affirms a fundamental precept of faith communities: welcoming strangers, regardless of faith or background. Knitting for CAS is a year-round enterprise, especially during a pandemic knowing that another Christmas is just around the corner.

As a knitter for the program, you join an inclusive, supportive community representing the oldest, continuously running charter knitting program in the United States. CAS delivers the highest volume of knitted/crocheted gifts to international seafarers of any non-profit, and it is the only chaplaincy delivering knit/crocheted gifts to the thousands of professional U.S. mariners at work aboard towboats, harbor tugs, and dredges on the Mississippi River system and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterways.

CAS Manager Joanne Bartosik stated, “The hallmark of our program is the personalization. We never purchase knits from the store. Every gift is hand-made, and for international seafarers, most arrive in a hand-sewn ditty bag. Knitted gifts to U.S. mariners on boats are delivered in boxes containing handcrafted Christmas cards often created by school children.” In 2020, the Lend A Hand Circle donated ten hats, nine scarves, seven cowls, six pairs of socks, candy, snacks, puzzle books and toiletries. What a great feeling it is to receive a thank you note from the project stating, “We can’t thank you enough for your support. This is a very generous package.”

CAS started as a morale-building project for the sea mariners on the boat during the Christmas season. Many mariners’ responses on receiving his box or ditty bag were, “The needlework on this hat and scarf is beautiful. The idea that someone would take the time to make these wonderful gifts for other people that they don’t even know, it means a lot.” If interested in learning more about this project, go to
isc@seamenschurch.org for patterns and further information. Although gifts are delivered to ships and boats from the Tuesday before Thanksgiving through Epiphany in January, gathering the knits occurs year-round. All items should be sent to Christmas at Sea, 118 Export Street, Port Newark, NJ, 07114 Phone 1-973-589-5828

My newest service project is Knit for Kids. I learned about this project from Debbie Macomber, a Guidepost contributor, who is also a spokesperson for the World Vision Knit for Kids project. She states, “Knitted or crocheted items are far more than something created from a simple skein of yarn. As we infuse our time, talent, and money into an article, we also infuse our love.

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. The Knit for Kids project believes that with every stitch, together, we give hope and warmth to vulnerable children living in poverty or other difficult situations around the globe.

For millions of children, a hand-made item isn’t just a sweater or a blanket. It’s a chance at better health. It’s protection and warmth. And it’s a symbol of support for a better future. World Vision serves all people in need, of any faith or none. Anyone that knits or crochets and is interested in participating in the Knit for Kids project go to KnitforKids@worldvision.org for patterns. Check out mailing instructions before mailing items as a completed packing slip must be filled out before mailing. The mailing address is Knit for Kids, c/o World Vision, 210 Overlook Drive, Sewickley, PA, 15143, Phone 1-800-292-9832.

I encourage IOKDS knitters and their knitting friends to participate in either of these programs. IOKDS is known for its service and many acts of kindness.

Knitters – may your hands be busy and warm while you are serving others IN HIS NAME.

Mary Jane Mackenzie, PA
Lend a Hand Circle
IOKDS Director

1 Comment

  1. What a great organization in support of Sea Mariners. Knitting is such a worthwhile activity, bringing warmth and comfort to all who receive the finished projects.

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