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Thursday, December 14, 2023

Warming Hands and Hearts this Holiday Season: Q&A with Nanette Brey Magnani, Coordinator of Knitting with a Purpose Network

Warming Hands and Hearts this Holiday Season: Q&A with Nanette Brey Magnani, Coordinator of Knitting with a Purpose Network

An avid supporter of Catholic Charities Boston, Nanette Brey Magnani founded the Knitting with a Purpose Network in 2021 and has been donating knitted items ever since to Catholic Charities clients, from Refugee and Immigrant Services to residents in shelters. We spoke with Nanette about the mission of Knitting with a Purpose Network and how they became involved with the Agency.

How did the Knitting with a Purpose Network form?

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malaysia in the seventies. After my Peace Corps, I traveled for six weeks in Afghanistan. I loved the pristine, rugged beauty of the country and felt a kindred spirit with their Afghans. The British were never able to colonize them––they have a fierce streak of independence. In 2021, I read about the rushed, inhumane way our Afghan compatriots were treated and when some of the Afghans were to be resettled in Massachusetts, I felt compelled, in some small way, to make them feel welcomed.

With winter approaching, I thought there were many who would cherish the opportunity to give back through knitting and crocheting. I created a flyer and put them in nearby yarn stores in the Framingham area and sent them to friends. Women quickly responded. Since we were knitting with a purpose, it made sense to call our network of knitters and crocheters, “Knitting with a Purpose.”

How many people are in the Knitting with a Purpose Network?

We currently have about twenty knitters in the group. We have everyone from students to university professors to lawyers; the group attracts everybody. One woman, a recent graduate student and mother, is an art therapist and social worker. She made crocheted animals for the toddlers and babies; another knitter made adorable bears. Each knitter brings their own unique style to their knitting. The work is so beautiful that I often marvel at how much time they spend and are so willing to give.

How did the group get connected to Catholic Charities Boston?

I read in the newspaper that Catholic Charities was working with refugees and reached out. They responded enthusiastically to our idea of welcoming Afghans to Massachusetts with a gift of knitted items that included welcoming tags with the knitter’s name on it. All of the knitters wanted the Afghan families and individuals to know there were people here that respected and appreciated them for their service. We wanted to counter the racism and prejudice with a warm welcome. We donated hats, scarves, shawls, blankets, sweaters, mittens, wash cloths, and baby blankets.

What is most meaningful about being able to support Catholic Charities Boston’s clients through knitting?

When I was about 4 or 5 years old, my mother taught my sister and I how to make scarves. My mother would donate them to soldiers fighting in the Korean War. That’s when my passion for knitting began and I’ve been knitting ever since.

I recently had a serendipitous moment when I was dropping off knitted items at Catholic Charities Labouré Center in South Boston. There was a young mother and client in front of me with a baby and young child. I gave one of the bears to the baby, and her face just lit right up. Her sibling was amazed. To see their reactions, made for a special experience and reinforced that we are making a difference.

To learn more about how you can support Catholic Charities Boston’s clients in need this holiday season and beyond, click here.

Part 6 of our Twelve Days of Giving Series, sharing heartwarming stories about people spreading joy and compassion within our community this holiday season.

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