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Greensburg group spreads warmth with hat, glove distribution |

Greensburg group spreads warmth with hat, glove distribution

Jeff Himler

Zippered bags stuffed with winter hats, gloves and scarves appeared Sunday afternoon hanging from trees, fences and parking meters in downtown Greensburg.

The timing of the fourth annual free distribution of cold-weather essentials, left where local residents in need can find them, couldn’t have been better, as overnight temperatures during the weekend dipped into the 20s.

Inspired by scarf giveaways that were occurring in larger cities, Greensburg’s “Hat and Gloves With Love” project has broadened the concept to include a full complement of gear for protecting heads, necks and hands from the cold.

This year, about 30 volunteers gathered Sunday at the Westmoreland Community Action Program offices to sort donated items and stuff and hang 4,000 bags, labeled for the gender and age level of the intended recipient.

“It makes you feel good when you see all these people who are
concerned about people in the community who are in need,” said Carl DiPietro of Hempfield, a board member of Feeding the Spirit, the Greensburg-based charitable program that spearheads the outerwear distribution.

Many people who lose their winter hat or gloves simply go to the store and buy replacements. But board member and event organizer Deb Thackrah noted, “Not everyone can do that. There are people in our community who can’t afford to buy them for themselves or their kids. We want to raise that awareness in people.”

Fellow board member Patricia Elliott-Rentler witnessed that fact when she saw a young boy approach a project volunteer after claiming one of the offered scarves.

“He wanted to know how to put it on because he’d never had a scarf in his life,” she said.

Other organizations have become involved in the project. The Westmoreland Museum of American Art set aside time for knitting groups to gather and fashion items for the distribution, Thackrah said.

Stephanie Turin, who teaches human services and social work courses at Westmoreland County Community College, brings some of her students to help fill and hang the bags.

As part of its mission, Feeding the Spirit strives to reduce “barriers to housing, employment and food security.” At 5:30 p.m. each Thursday, it offers a meal to those in need at Otterbein United Methodist Church in Greensburg.

“I think people come because of the community fellowship,” Thackrah said of the meals. “You can be yourself. We’re not going to critique or categorize you.”

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Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer.
You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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