The U.S. Census Bureau defines poverty as earning less than $27,750 per year for a family of four. The Dayton Daily News recently reported that, in 2021, about 27.6% of Dayton residents live in poverty. That’s about 1 in every 3.5 people.
The article continued: “Last year, nearly one-third of Black and Latino Dayton residents lived below the poverty line, compared to less than one-quarter of their white counterparts.
“Children in Dayton are far more likely to live in poverty than other age groups.
“About 44% of kids under the age of 18 are impoverished, while less than a quarter of people 18 to 64 are in the same situation. Nearly 18% of seniors 65 and older are stuck in poverty.”
People living in poverty often do not have their basic needs met. In winter, this means figuring out how to pay higher energy bills to keep your home warm. Paying more for utilities then impacts some families’ ability to purchase adequate warm winter clothing.
With all this in mind, this year, the Sisters got busy! Nine Sisters made 419 hats and 63 scarves that they donated to nine social service agencies in the Dayton area.
Sister Beverly Bodnar shared her memories of the origins of this project:
In the late ’90s, as a pastoral associate at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Gates Mills, Ohio, I had the privilege to bring the Eucharist to the homebound. One of my favorite stops was with Theresa and Audrey Yacobucci. Theresa was always busy crocheting and often wanted to share her projects. When she showed me the winter caps she had been crocheting, I eagerly asked her if she would be willing to assist Sister Margie Zureick’s ministry in Kentucky. Hearing all that Sister Margie was doing for the poor, Theresa wanted to help. And the caps kept coming! We found ways to get the caps off to Dayton and then to Kentucky.
Following my move to ministry at Salem Heights, our central house in Dayton, I wondered if some of the Sisters could start the crocheting project there. Sister Frances Kleman was eager to participate, as was Sister Rose Ann Winkeljohn. They created beautiful caps, and for years contributed to a project by Regina High School alumnae in their Christmas outreach to the poor in Cincinnati, as well as supporting Sister Margie and some local projects.
When Sister Frances retired and went to heaven, Sister Rose Ann said she could not keep this up alone. Not too many other Sisters were interested at that time, so I said I guess I could do it. And I got hooked, rarely seen at recreation without a crochet hook.
Soon Sister Rose Ann decided to travel to heaven also. So Sister Eva Roehrich became a great contributor to the cause. She would do the finishing touches and attach the pompoms as well as find storage space and pack away the caps until the Christmas season. Different Sisters periodically made contributions. Besides continuing to support Sister Margie, we continued to find local areas of need.
Sister Mary Lou Schmersal described the next phase of the project:
I had organized Warm Cap Groups in several Toledo area parishes beginning in 2011. In 2021, I brought my experiences to the Dayton area. An increased number of Sister crafters added to the project, producing well over 400 scarves, caps and headbands for this year’s giveaway. In addition, folks were recruited to help make tassels and tags, as well as deliver to various agencies. A special “shoutout” of thanks also goes to the parishes and individuals who donated a great variety of yarn.
— Story by Sisters Beverly Bodnar and Mary Lou Schmersal and Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator Jen Morin-Williamson