RICHMOND — Richmond Senior Center members Audrey Swain and Beverly Wightman arrived at Richmond Elementary School on Monday morning, accompanied by center director Dennis McGinity.
The visitors were carrying shopping bags full of scarves, hats and mittens that members of the center had been knitting since September. The winter clothing was for children who sometimes can’t go outside at recess in the winter because they aren’t properly dressed.
Principal Sharon Martin greeted the volunteers and peeked at the colorful mittens inside one of the bags.
“They are stunning. Absolutely gorgeous,” she said.
Martin explained that the school, which emphasizes health and wellness, encourages the children to take their recesses outdoors, even when it’s cold.
“I see so many students come off the bus without a coat, and certainly without a hat and mittens,” she said. “We know who they are and we try to get them some as soon as we can. People have donated coats to us in the past. We just make sure. If they don’t have a coat we ask them, ‘Do you need a coat? We’re happy to get you one.’ ... At Richmond School, we’re unique. If there’s snow outside, they play outside, but they can’t play outside if they’re not dressed properly.”
Martin led the volunteers down to school nurse Erin Plucinski’s office, where a row of desks had been set up in the hallway to hold the donated items. Plucinski agreed that children sometimes arrived at school in the winter without jackets.
“When it’s colder, it’s important, obviously, to make sure that they’re bundled up,” she said. “Some kids will not even have a jacket sometimes, and they’ll swing in to see me, or the school psychologist, because we have extras on hand in case somebody comes without a coat.”
McGinity said donating the items to the school was a new initiative for the center.
“There’s so much information on the news about people needing different things around the holiday season, and people without, that the ladies came to me and said ‘We would like to do this,’” he said.
Student Council community service leaders Marion Boyd and Aaron Rice, who are in the fourth grade, unpacked the bags and arranged the outwear on the desks. When they had finished, they stepped back to admire their work.
“They’re the most beautiful mittens I ever saw,” Boyd said.
“They’re colorful, and some of the mittens match the hats, which makes it cool,” Rice added.
Swain, who lives in Warwick but drives all the way to the Richmond senior center because “that’s where all my friends are,” and Wightman, of Hope Valley, worked on the knitting project with four additional team members, Brent Reyburn, Beverly Gebler, Helena Hank and Pat Labrie. The volunteers completed 50 pairs of mittens, 12 hats and several scarves.
“I focus on mittens, because that, I can do,” Swain said.
Wightman said she wanted to send a warm message with the mittens and hats.
“I feel like children need to know that someone besides mom and dad care about them and want to make sure they have what they need for cold weather,” she said.
Martin said it had been a pleasure to have the seniors visit the school.
“I think it’s such a beautiful way to bridge the talents of people in our community,” Martin told the visitors. “Even just having you come to our school today and having the opportunity to meet you and hear stories about the women who made these and then to see them on our children just makes me feel so happy inside.”