UHall Needleworks: Stitching and Team-Building with a Purpose

Posted: January 11, 2012 at 5:00 am, Last Updated: January 10, 2012 at 3:44 pm

By Janet Walker, Human Resources and Payroll

UHall Needleworks members (from left) Shannon Finley, Meaghan Doherty, Joan Dall'Acqua, Tara Laskowski and Helga Yunker. Photo by Kathy Smith

When Kathy Smith joined Mason last summer as Human Resources and Payroll’s new manager of HR data management, she brought more than her superlative professional skills to Mason.

At her previous position, she had been involved in a knitting group, and she suggested that one get started at Mason. Thus, UHall Needleworks was born. Every Tuesday at noon over lunch, stitchers get together in University Hall for needlework and conversation. All types of needleworking are welcome — knitting, crocheting, embroidery and cross-stitch.

“We welcome everyone,” says Smith. “It’s part stitching, part networking and part therapy.”

The UHall Needleworkers are also in the stitching game for another purpose. Each donates their time, materials and a little piece of their heart to service projects. Individual members suggest projects, and the group selects one per quarter to support. Since its founding in October 2011, the group members have contributed their time and talents to:

  • The Red Scarf Project Foster Care to Success — American’s College Fund for Foster Youth. For this project, scarves are included in a Valentine’s Day Care Package to students enrolled in college.
  • NICU Cap Project. For this project, preemie baby hats are given to Georgetown University Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit through Project Knitwell.

For 2012, the group will be working with Mason Military Services to provide articles for wounded warriors and active-duty friends and family overseas. Meaghan Doherty, a member of the HR and Payroll Benefits team, is the liaison between Mason Military Services and UHall Needleworks.

“Without even knowing me,” says Doherty, “members of our military sacrifice their lives to keep me safe. I want to do all I can to say thank you.”

Babies born to Mason faculty and staff members get a custom-made hat, courtesy of UHallNeedleworks. Photo by Kathy Smith

HR and Payroll has donated green and gold yarn for another 2012 project: baby hats for the new parent packets.

“Our faculty and staff welcome between 35 and 45 new Mason Patriots each year,” says Linda Harber, associate vice president for HR and Payroll. “In addition to the resources and information we provide in our new parent packets, we are excited to share a handcrafted Mason baby hat for the newest members of the Mason family.”

Harber adds, “Most important, since they’re made by our faculty and staff, they can be tailored to the age of the child. If you adopt a 5-year-old, UHall Needleworks will craft a hat just for him or her. It’s flexible, just like Mason.”

The group welcomes experienced and novice stitchers, as one mentors the other. Joan Dall’Aqua, senior designer in Creative Services, says, “I’ve been knitting since I was 4 years old — I love that I’m still learning new techniques. I look forward to organizing another service project for a local animal shelter. There are going to be some well-dressed mutts in Northern Virginia!”

The group also plans to reach out to the Alzheimer’s Family Day Center and Mason’s School of Nursing for additional service projects.

If you’re interested in starting a needleworks group in your building, please email worklife@gmu.edu. The HR and Payroll work/life team is happy to get you set up with a room and help you promote your group.

Write to gazette at gazette@gmu.edu