MANCHESTER, NH – It started as a post on Jan. 28 in a public Facebook group, Manchester Happenings Now, where more than 3,000 followers share information about news and events in and around the city.
By Feb. 7 they had organized and executed a truly organic gesture of goodwill, coming together as concerned citizens in Veterans Park to wrap scarves, hats and mittens around trees, posts and benches, with the idea that someone in need would find and accept the freely given gift of warmth and neighborly love.
Each item left in the park had a tag that read: “I am not lost. If you find yourself in the cold please take me to keep warm.”
The original post went up on the group page Jan. 28 with credit to the Spirit FM Morning Show, a religious-based radio program out of Virginia, and quickly caught fire, with 129 comments by Saturday night, posted by group members who jumped in to offer to knit and crochet items, or donate store-bought items.
In 10 days time participants had communicated online and by phone, sharing crochet patterns and taking on tasks, such as making the labels, offering rides, debating whether the local police should be notified, wondering about connecting with New Horizons shelter, and spreading the word to other Manchester-based Facebook groups, including the Things I Remember Growing Up in Manchester group, which is more than 7,000 strong.
A local Girl Scout troop leader volunteered to bring some reinforcements, and Louise LaFerriere, who helps moderate the Manchester Happenings Now group, along with page administrators Nancy and Ken Balcom Jr., was among those who got busy knitting, and then coordinating and picking up donations.
“It was a great turn out,” said LaFerriere late Saturday night, after a long day of organizing and distribution.
The group got some welcome exposure when a crew from WMUR came out to document the moment, producing this story, which aired Saturday.
Through the power of social media, this kind of outpouring for those in need, particularly during such a cold and snowy winter season, is not new, or unique to Manchester.
Some other initiatives include this story posted Feb. 7 in the Southwest Times of Virginia which chronicles “Mystery Scarves” found packaged in Ziploc bags distributed around a local park. Last month a group left warm winter gear in a park in Spokane, Wash., and last winter the Boston Herald interviewed a woman from Watertown, Mass., who left warm blankets in a local park for the homeless.
After a long day of planting small gestures of kindness around Veterans Park, a final post on the group page hinted that this may not be the last we see of community efforts to help ease the suffering of those who, for one reason or another, find themselves experiencing difficult times: Writes one group member: “I am willing to participate in another event like this, I have more than enough yarn and enjoy crocheting.”
If you would like to get involved, check out the Manchester Happenings Now group page on Facebook.