March 23, 2013

Local knitters help keep kids warm


---- — PLATTSBURGH — Virginia Blake knitted until she had no yarn left.

The Plattsburgh woman recently donated four bags of handmade, matching hat and mitten sets to the Keep Kids Warm project at Plattsburgh Yarn and Gifts, said Sue Coonrod, owner of the store.

Between 25 and 30 people donated about 300 hand-knit mittens, scarves and hats that were distributed to children in nine local elementary schools and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) office this winter.

Business has been good at Plattsburgh Yarn and Gifts since it opened last year, and Coonrod said she felt she needed to do something to help others.

“You have to give back,” she said.

While she was working as a teacher and middle-school principal before she retired, Coonrod noticed that some children would come to school during the winter months without the proper clothing.

Some families were able to get their children winter clothes with the help of Social Services or the Joint Council for Economic Opportunity (JCEO).

“Then there were the other kids who would come to school, their parents are maybe working at the poverty level or just above it, and they were too proud to accept help or just didn’t qualify for it. Those were the kids that would say they left their mittens at home,” Coonrod said.


So Coonrod came up with the Keep Kids Warm project, placing a donation box marked with the project’s name and a hand-drawn picture of children wearing cozy winter accessories in her shop.

“I thought I’d get one basket full of things,” Coonrod said. 

But the basket filled up quickly, over and over again.

“I was floored by the response,” she said. “I started writing them down, but I couldn’t keep up with it.”


Kathy Miller of Plattsburgh donated some mittens to the cause after hearing about the project late last year.

Her mother, Marion Miller, used to knit hats and mittens and donate them to local schools, too, Kathy said.

“I’m kind of following in her footsteps,” she said. “I love the fact that my mother taught me to knit years ago, and I’ve been knitting ever since.”

Like Coonrod, Kathy is a retired teacher.

Knitting for the Keep Kids Warm project provided Kathy with a way to do what she loves and give back to her community, all while using her creativity.

“I love making things, creating things,” she said.

Most schools opted to give the items outright to students and their families. Some will keep the winter wear in the nurses’s office so students can borrow them on a daily basis before going outside for recess.

Coonrod’s timing for the Oak Street Elementary School donation was especially good since it coincided with the Plattsburgh school’s coat drive.

The mittens and hats were laid out with the coats for children to choose when parents’ picked them up from school, Coonrod said.

The WIC office heard about the project and called Coonrod, saying they would be happy to take any items that were too small for school-aged kids.

One woman brought in a big bag of knitted baby hats, so they went to WIC along with three other bags of knitted items.


The Clinton County Health Department recognized Coonrod with the Community Partnership and Health Award, which Jerie Reid, director of Public Health, presented to her at the February meeting.

“I accepted it on behalf of volunteer knitters,” Coonrod said. “I don’t want to take any of the credit because I only knit a few things, and it’s mostly done by people in the community.”

Coonrod made the last donation for this winter season a couple weeks ago and is now collecting items to donate next winter.

Blake wasn’t without yarn for long.

In Coonrod’s newsletter, she wrote that she was accepting donations for a woman who had run out of yarn.

A local woman showed up with four bags, and another bought $60 worth of yarn for Blake.

One of them told Coonrod to “give Virginia a hug for me.”

To learn more about charity knitting, go to

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