Gateway Professor Helps Keep Local Community Warm

Monday, December 7, 2020

Anne Williams has been hard at work hand-knitting hats for the homeless in New Haven for years, and with a pandemic looming in the background, she has been especially busy.image0.jpeg

While homeless shelters can help individuals or families experiencing a housing crisis, vulnerable segments of the population need critical assistance with clothing, food and other items. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened matters. According to the “Connecticut Post,” the coronavirus pandemic has led to more than 1 million claims for unemployment benefits in Connecticut since March.

“Covid has absolutely resulted in faster knitting,” Williams said. “The volume has increased but so has the need.”

The business professor at Gateway Community College estimates she’s knitted more than 200 hats so far. For comparison, last year around this time she was up to 130.

Williams donates the hats to The Community Soup Kitchen, New Haven's longest-tenured community dining room. Executive Director David O’Sullivan said the hats are a big help during the winter.

“Anything you can do to keep people warm is critical,” O’Sullivan said. “Everyone has loved them. We are starting to get some folks from Hamden coming to New Haven. If we can give them a meal and a hat, that puts them in a better place. The hats are soft and well made, so people love to wear them.”

Williams began teaching at Gateway in 1990. In addition to her course load, she helps in the college’s Veterans' Oasis, helping war vets plan their academic careers, or bolstering students’ social media savvy by helping them set up professional LinkedIn accounts.

Kitting hats is a family tradition, one she used to enjoy alongside her cousins, Martha Sullivan and Margaret Foley, who knitted well into their 70s and 80s, but passed in 2019.

The women knitted thousands of hats over the years.

“Each hat takes about two hours to complete,” Williams said. Most of Williams’ hats are solid colors, and she knits hats of all sizes. “There are a few that have alternative stitches. Each hat takes a skein of yarn.” (A skein is the classic shape most people think of when they think of yarn. It is similar to a ball but is formed into an oblong shape.)

As far as custom orders go, Williams isn't opposed to the idea. In fact, she knitted a hat just for Gateway’s CEO William T. Brown in “Gateway blue.”

Now, with Covid distancing in place, she just has to find a way to get it to him before Spring.