Elf in the cafeteria

Toting a sewing machine and a satchel full of fleece, Kathy Meyer sets up shop in an elementary school lunchroom. Soon, she is surrounded by eager little customers, anxious for her attention.

She isn’t selling anything but joy, doesn’t charge a thing except a little bit of time and, when she’s finished, everybody walks away feeling warm and fuzzy. Literally.

Kathy volunteers to make hats for the YMCA afterschool care program. In the process she teaches kids to appreciate the art of sewing and the thrill of handmade beauty.

I stumbled into her very cool operation on a cold afternoon earlier this week.

“Ask about his hat,” the YMCA coordinator told me when I arrived to pick up my little charge.

I expected to see a paper hat, the kind Curious George floated down the river. Kids back in my day made those all the time. But, when I looked, the little guy was wearing an actual fleece hat, and a cool one at that.

“Wow!” I said sincerely. “That is an amazing hat! You made that today?”

He turned with the brightest smile and the proudest look on his face, and pointed at Kathy, working away in the corner of the room.

A little girl stood next to her and they bent their heads together as they worked on her hat. By the end of the day, 15 kids got to wear their warm and wonderful new hats home.

And, Kathy went back the next day to make some more. I know this because I brought our youngest little charge with us to pick up his brother and he asked if he could have a hat.

“Pick out the fleece and I’ll drop one off for you on my way home tonight,” she said.

About an hour later, the perfect hat appeared on our front porch. The little fellow was thrilled.

In a cold, cold season it’s pretty cool to see one of Santa’s elves out there keeping little ears warm and all of our hearts full.

Kathy set up shop on a picnic table in an elementary school lunchroom, sewing hats and the seeds of self-confidence, art appreciation, and autonomy for a bunch of really lucky kids. It seems about right that she looked like an elf while she was working away.
The fleece comes assembled into little kits that the kids can choose.
Our little people were thrilled.

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