two women knitting at a Panera Bread bakery-cafe

Knitting for Good

This knitting group has grown from two to nearly 100 needleworkers, many of them regularly meeting at a Panera Bread bakery-cafe. But this is more than a hobby for them. Discover how members use their talent to help people in need

It’s a Saturday morning in Augusta, Georgia, and in the back of the Panera Bread bakery-cafe off Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway, a constant, unraveling skein of conversation is punctuated by frequent bursts of outright laughter and the steady clicking of knitting needles.

For almost five years the Grow with Grits ’n Grins knitters have come together on the second Saturday of each month. They’re an outgoing group of women who have knitted, crocheted, and hand loomed an almost unimaginable number of hats, scarves, and other items for hospitals, treatment centers, shelters, and schools from central Georgia to North Carolina.

Sharing Warmth

“We take up the whole back of the bakery-cafe with that month’s donations, supplies, and current works in progress all over the place while we talk and teach each other,” says Kate Booth, who founded Grow with Grits (which stands for Girls Raised in the South) ’n Grins (Girls Raised in Northern States) with her friend Crystal Hathcox. The two met in 2008 while undergoing physical therapy following knee surgery and bonded over their common love of knitting. Thanks to new members, they have added Grow (Girls Raised Out West).

Prior to founding this group, Kate had started a ministry knitting prayer shawls for those in need—ill, grieving, or struggling in some way—in Wisconsin. Shortly after moving to Georgia in year 2008, Kate injured her knee, and as she recuperated from subsequent knee surgery, she became friends with fellow knee patient Crystal, encouraging her to renew her lifelong interest in knitting. The women decided to reach out to the community to share their common love.

Their first big challenge came when they were asked to knit hats and scarves for 446 underprivileged children at an elementary school in Creedmoor, North Carolina. “We all just looked at each other and said, ‘Are we kidding ourselves?’ But every child got a hat and scarf,” Kate says.

Answering the Call of Those in Need

Since creating the hundreds of hats and scarves, the group has taken on challenges from many other organizations, among them the Salvation Army, Broad Street Ministry Center, Georgia Regents University Cancer Center, SafeHomes (a haven for victims of domestic violence), and Maxwell House (a low-income housing development), all in Augusta, and the International Seafarers Ministry, in North Charleston, South Carolina.

“No matter what other projects we take on, we still do our prayer shawls,” Kate says. “I could sit here and tell stories all day about the responses to the them.”

The group is very popular with both customers and staff, says Tim Upton, the bakery-cafe’s general manager. “A lot of people coming to breakfast on Saturday morning have become part of that group—it’s awesome,” says Tim. “And now that I’ve gotten to know the ladies, they are friends; they are no longer just customers.”

Want to Help?

Grow with Grits ’n Grins welcomes new knitters and teaches newcomers. Says Kate, “We need willing hands and hearts.” Donations of yarn, knitting needles and accoutrements, and cash to buy supplies are also welcome. All items knitted by the group are donated to those in need. To help, e-mail Kate at katebooth51@yahoo.com.