The 74-year-old philanthropic organization of 175 members has raised more than $2 million for hospitals, the University of Maryland, the fire department, veterans, the homeless and any certified organization that writes to them with a need. One of their projects has been to knit and send hats for newborn babies.
The group got involved with this four years ago, when Mercy Hospital stopped receiving baby hats from a donor. When Lois Balser, past president of Covenant Guild, found out about the situation, she brought up the idea of making hats to the sisterhood, and they eagerly took on the task. Since then, the guild has averaged 400 hat donations a year. Earlier this year, the virus suddenly gave everyone a lot more time with their yarn. Since January, the group has pumped out at least the number they usually make in a year.
Local companies donate the yarn. Balser, chair of the knitting committee of 18 official members, used to write and request donations for yarn. But by now, a myriad of boxes will spontaneously show up in the lobby of her apartment complex. After the knitters spin their magic with it, they send the finished hats back to Balser. Before COVID-19, she would deliver them in person to mothers in the NICU units of Mercy Hospital or Sinai Hospital and for the University of Maryland. Now, Balser leaves them at the desk outside the hospital where the hats take a turn through a sanitation process first.
Cleanliness is particularly important as a lot of the recipients are vulnerable, premature babies.
“It makes me sad to knit for preemies, they’re so small,” said Maxine Cohn, board member and president of small committees in a recent Zoom interview with some knitters. She held up two fingers to show the minuscule width of a preemie hat.
Knitter Bea Yoffe participates to lift her spirits. While her fingers fiddle away, she imagines who the baby who will wear it will be. “I think to myself, maybe this baby will become a president! It’s very comforting,” Yoffe said. Though they usually don’t get to meet the potential baby-presidents, Yoffe was lucky enough to meet a recipient by chance. While she was in a hospital waiting room, she started speaking with a stranger who showed a picture of their baby. Coincidentally, it was wearing one of her hats.
Balser said she has also seen some family members react. “They’re always thrilled. We also get letters from the universities,” she said. “If we didn’t send the knit hats, they would be getting a T-shirt material.”
Yoffe said she appreciates how easy the hobby is. “Anyone can do it. Of course, I can only do one a night because I take my time.”
“I hadn’t knit since I was a child,” said Anita Goldmsith, recording secretary. She picked it up again when she taught children in her classroom to knit. Now, she loves sitting down to watch TV and knit in the evening.
“Yeah, I knit instead of eating candy at night now,” joked Yoffe.
“Well, I still put the candy in my mouth,” replied Goldsmith.
Elaine Plovitz, a member who has been knitting for 50 years, said it’s a relaxing hobby. “The hats are so tiny and precious, it puts a smile on your face just looking at them,” she said. One of her memories from this project was when she was with her husband in the hospital, and a patient who’d just had a son came through. She had a hat with her and gave it to the family.
Plovitz loves the guild because members do projects like these from their heart.
“I’ve helped a lot of organizations, but this one is so philanthropic,” Plovitz said.
“I joined because a friend invited me and these women have become my best friends. I’m a member of a lot of organizations, and I can tell you this is definitely my favorite,” Cohn said.
Goldsmith agreed and explained that the organization is very social. She has turned the knitting project into an excuse to get together with seven friends of hers, socially distanced, and knit together.
Beyond their family reunion-like Zooms, the Covenant Guild is watching the pandemic before they plan out the next year and coming projects. They will continue to knit baby hats and run clothing drives. If interested in helping, email Lois Balser at LBalser7@verizon.net.