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by: Jaime Valdez, GIFTS OF WARMTH — Dina McBride is on a mission to knit hats, scarves, gloves and more for Beaverton’s homeless students, and you can help.

Dina McBride is on the hunt for some helping hands and willing hearts.


The Cedar Mill mother has boxes of donated skeins of colorful yarn just waiting for knitters and crocheters to cast stiches on.

'It's not the horrible, scratchy wool people think of,' McBride said as she handed over a cabled, magenta hat she had just finished that had a soft, smooth texture. 'It's beautiful, and just a knitter's dream. The artists who dye this wool really have a gift.'

McBride is leading a YarnFest mission to create a handcrafted item for every homeless student in the Beaverton School District.

'I'm hoping to meet that goal by Thanksgiving, which is going to take a bit of a miracle,' she said.

As of Wednesday, the district's homeless liaison Lisa Mentesana had received 356 new referrals of homeless students since the school year began. Although that figure is down from the 424 students the district's Homeless Education Program assisted last year at this same time, Mentesana said her case load would only continue to grow as the year progresses.

'We're down from last year, which is hopeful,' Mentesana said. 'We know we're doing our very best to serve the academic needs of our children, but anything beyond that needs to come from the community.

'Whatever anyone is able to accomplish for our children is a blessing and very much appreciated.'

Oregon's Department of Education released its homeless student count for the 2009-10 school year on Wednesday, showing the highest numbers on record. The percentage of homeless students in Oregon has increased 134 percent since the state began counting seven years ago.

Beaverton topped the list with 1,580 of its 38,090 students identifying as homeless at some point during the 2009-10 school year.

Loving gifts

It was hearing Mentesana talk about the need in the school district last winter that struck a chord with McBride as she sat with other members of Cedar Mill Bible Church.

'I had an 'ah ha' moment, knowing that crafting for the homeless students of Beaverton School District was exactly what I was called to do,' she recalled. 'They have so little in their life that is intentional.

'I thought it would be pretty cool for them to know that someone did something for them on purpose - not as an afterthought.'

McBride prayed about the idea for months as she continued to heal from a series of hospitalizations and medical procedures to remove her stomach and spleen as well as part of her pancreas, liver and diaphragm.

During her recovery, she launched a blog at yarnfest.wordpress.com, where she reached out to other crafters, yarn companies and knitting shops with her idea.

'In the last several months as I've been s-l-o-w-l-y healing up and moving on with life, this project has been BIG on my heart,' she wrote. 'God is not letting me ignore this. HE is nudging me in a big way to get this going and to do it well.'

Yarn vendors responded, sending her boxes and bags full of skeins. Crafters have also dropped off completed hats, scarves, sweaters and more for the effort.

Meanwhile, McBride has been hoarding patterns to share with other crafters during knitting nights in homes and shops across town and inviting people to join the effort via her YarnFest blog.

'This is open to anyone who is willing to give a little bit of their time to create something that is beautiful and functional,' she said. 'Because it is crafted by hand, the gift is more personal.'

Crafted with care and hope

Now that McBride is no longer in a great deal of pain, she has picked up her knitting needles again.

She can be found knitting during breaks and lunch when she's working in medical records at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center or traveling with her family in the car. She also knits while watching television with her children or sitting on the porch with her husband.

'I knit in church - that's a little bit of a scandal,' she admitted with a smile. 'I've found that if I'm knitting, I hear better. It helps me keep focused.'

The child that might receive her gift is never far from her mind.

'I don't pick up my needles and run with blank stiches,' McBride said. 'I don't want it to be without personality.

'I love to look for a beautiful pattern that is a little challenging. I look for the right material for the right medium and run with it.'

Each stich is made with care and the hope that it will connect with a student in need of both.

'There are people in our community within a mile who have really profound basic needs,' McBride said. 'Because we live in a nice area with great homes, we don't always think of how much need there is within arms' reach.

'Anyone can have a season of need, a season of catastrophe. I want to do something to bless someone else.'

For more information about how you can get involved, visit www.yarnfest.wordpress.com .

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