A little warmth can go a long way.
And retired Arlington school teacher Sherry Hall is working hard to make it go even further. She has created almost 100 handmade scarves over the past four years, and with the help of her son, Tyler Sowers, has distributed them to those on the streets needing a little something to keep them warm.
She said the idea came to her about five years ago, when was approaching 50 years old.
“I decided to embrace a lot of new things. I traveled to Europe for the first time, I seriously began pursuing my writing, and just started stepping out of my comfort zone in general much more,” she said, adding with a laugh. “My thought was, ‘I’ve spent 50 years on the planet already. By most statistics, I’m at least halfway done.’
“It wasn’t morbid, really. I just wanted to make the most of all of the days I still have.”
Raised in a family that always did what they could to help others, Sherry learned at an early age how important that is. Her grandparents were always helping people, and she would help her mother set up homes for refugees.
“Those experiences stayed with me. I remember playing with the children in those families and we couldn’t talk to each other because we didn’t speak the same language,” she said. “I remember how that wasn’t really important. We were kids, and we had a great time.
“So, we are all people here on this planet. In it together. I was fortunate to know that my whole life.”
As a teen and young adult, she was very involved with the Muscular Dystrophy Association as a volunteer camp counselor. She now works in the special education department of the Arlington School District, where she and her co-workers have put together an annual Breast Cancer Awareness project each October the past four years.
“My colleagues and friends entertain each other’s crazy ideas, including mine, toward this end,” Hall said. “So the scarves were just sort of another way to manifest that idea of service to others.”
And why scarves?
“I was at my mom’s house and she wanted to give me her yarn stash, which was sizable. I was protesting that I didn’t know how to knit or crochet, so I wouldn’t know what to do with all that yarn,” she said. “It was, no exaggeration, an SUV full of yarn. My mom just sort of shrugged and pointed to the couch and said, ‘Well, sit down, I will teach you right now.’
“So I did. She taught me one stitch and I made a scarf. I brought all that yarn home and made a scarf for everyone I knew. When my friends and family were all taken care of, I still had a whole bunch of yarn left. So I thought about who could use scarves.”
Said Tyler: “Distributing the scarves with Mom, it’s fun. We make a good team — and it makes me happy to know that it is helping someone.”
As it turns out, there are several homeless people near Tyler’s home, she said. He regularly interacts with them, and, of course he has his mother’s natural instinct to help.
She said they are planning a distribution in Fort Worth near Tyler’s home this winter. She also took some to New York this past Christmas when she visited, and they have had friends take scarves on vacation to leave — even to Canada and the United Kingdom.
“So I like to say now we are international,” Sherry said.
Sherry recently visited a classroom at Ashworth Elementary recently. The campus technology manager, Grace Frederick, has started a club for students who want to knit and crochet.
“She saw a need for kids to have a place and an activity before school. These kids come in and learn, and work on their projects before school even starts,” Sherry said. “Here are these students, girls and boys, sitting around, having fantastic conversations, and they are talented.
“Grace shared with me that some teachers have reported seeing more focus from students who participate in the group. That wasn’t the intent. Just a nice side-effect.”
“Kids watch us and what we do. Anytime adults can model civility and kindness, they see us. Kids are smart. We don’t have to spell all that out for them. We just need to walk the walk.”
Grace praised Sherry for helping a group of people, the homeless, who she said don’t have a voice of their own.
“She’s taken it upon herself to help a group of people that are cold. She’s taking her time and her own money to let people know she cares,” Grace said. “I’m so glad to know her. Everybody should have a George Bailey moment now and then, helping people without expecting anything in return.”
Sherry also has created a Facebook page titled Yarn Across Arlington so people can share ideas.
“I feel like this story really belongs to a lot of people,” she said.