Giving Back: River Parishes Stitches of Hope crochet for community

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, January 31, 2018

LAPLACE — A group of seven St. John the Baptist Parish ladies crocheted and knitted 163 red caps to be dispersed in hospitals throughout Louisiana and given to babies born in February in honor of American Heart Month.

It was the first of many altruistic projects for members of River Parishes Stitches of Hope, a new group dedicated to uniting the community and promoting charity through the lost art of crochet.

Tonya Ferguson and Terri Jouty work last week at the River Parishes Stitches of Hope meeting in LaPlace.

In January, the group also crafted 18 chemo caps for cancer patients of St. Jude Affiliate Treatment Center in Baton Rouge and donated 28 hats to local nonprofit Perry’s Posse.

Brandi Carr formed River Parishes Stitches of Hope in November after friends told her about The American Heart Association and The Children’s Heart Foundation’s Little Hats, Big Hearts initiative, a project they knew would be right up her alley.

Between 2015 and 2016, Carr’s 10-year-old son, Joseph, underwent intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments following the removal of a mass on his brain.

During prolonged hospital stays, handmade hats and blankets were donated to Joseph as a thoughtful reminder that people cared about his wellbeing.

The gesture gave Carr a sense of comfort. Over the next year, she learned to crochet as a stress reliever and made it her mission to give back to others.

“It was so awesome to see people come together in a time of need,” Carr said. “I want to be that person for others now and continue paying it forward.

“I hope it brings a smile to people’s faces and cheers them up.”

Upon hearing about the red hat project, she enlisted help from others on Facebook with a goal to donate 50 to 100 hats.

The Little Hats, Big Hearts initiative began in 2014 to educate families about congenital heart defects, the No. 1 cause of death in infants, according to regional coordinator Jan Murphy.

The annual effort attracts volunteers from more than 40 states who use their talents to crochet and knit newborn caps to start a dialogue about heart health and provide access to resources.

The cause touched the hearts of St. John Parish residents Ann Brooks, Bobbie Satterlee, Terri Jouty, Janice Church, Karen Chaplain, Madonna Lowry and Tonya Ferguson, who attended River Parishes Stitches of Hope’s first meeting in November.

Inspired to crochet and knit for the common good, the ladies far exceeded Carr’s original goal by donating 163 newborn caps.

Jouty found out about the group through Facebook and has used meetings as an opportunity to teach others the art of crochet, a craft she has enjoyed since she was a teenager.

Having previously joined another local crochet group that never took off, Jouty is glad Carr’s group has seen a strong start.

“Our main goal is to donate things to help other people,” Jouty said.

“I’ve never sold my crochet; I’ve always liked the idea of charity.”

There is a social aspect to the group, according to Jouty. St. John the Baptist Parish residents who were once strangers are being united as the group continues to grow.

“It’s a great bonding experience,” Jouty said. “Helping people learn to crochet and sharing the craft has been rewarding.”

One of the group’s next projects will be to donate afghan “granny square” quilts to the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Home in Reserve.

Carr originally planned on hosting meetings once per month and working on different projects each time, but members expressed interest in meeting bi-weekly and bringing their own charity projects to the table.

Meetings are held from 5 to 8 p.m. every other Wednesday at the Norris J. Millet Sr. Library on U.S. 51 in LaPlace.

“We strongly encourage people who want to learn to crochet or knit to come out,” Carr said.

“We have people of all different levels teaching each other stitches. Overall, I think that it’s a good experience for the community.”

Carr would like to see younger people including Girls Scouts become involved.

For more information, contact Carr at 504-909-2477 or join the River Parishes Stitches of Hope group on Facebook.