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Chester County Press

The community unites to distribute winter gear

01/05/2018 01:26PM ● By J. Chambless

A volunteer puts up winter clothing to be given away to whoever needs it.

In a time where the potential damage social media can do is a common topic of discussion, a locally run Facebook page has shown the good that can be done when a community connected by social media comes together. O-Town Speak Up – new and improved, owned by Dave McGowan with administrators Melissa Devine, Bruce Mowday and Zoe Walsh – put out a call for scarves, hats and gloves in an effort they called Operation Scarf Tie.

“The idea came from something we used to do in Baltimore,” said Zoe Walsh, one of the administrators. “We would tie scarves to telephone poles for those in need. Knowing that there was a cold winter forecast, a call was put out to over 4,000 members of the page for scarves, hats and gloves, knitted or gently used. The response was overwhelming.”

Nottingham Baptist Church, which runs one of the largest clothing donation operations in the area, donated gently used and new gloves, mittens hats and scarves. Knitting groups were formed, donating beautifully made scarves and hats, as individuals took up their tools to make scarves and hats.

“People connected -- those who maybe didn’t know how to make hats connected with others of more experience to learn so they could participate in this drive. The response was overwhelming,” said Bruce Mowday.

Jessica Hoch Dunn, a member, not only knitted scarves and hats but made tags in English and Spanish explaining that these items were free and if you needed one to simply take it. Among the members of the group were teachers from Nottingham Elementary School and, with the approval of the Superintendent of Schools the fourth grade classes of Mrs Hicks, Mrs Stotltzfus, Mr. Hayfzyc and Mr. Schaffer made Operation Scarves a class project.

“I really didn’t know what to expect when I went in,” said Mowday, who took the lead in the school's involvement, “but it was just amazing. The children were excited, they wanted to help and to give back, and many brought items to donate. The classes came together and packed Zip-Loc bags with scarves, hats and gloves, making sure that they were separated into proper categories for boys, girls, women and men.

“Not only did they work hard,” Mowday said, “but what was more important were the discussions that were had about giving and sharing and helping, and how sometimes people may have a need, even if it is temporary.”

The first scarf hang was Dec. 23. There was pouring rain, but despite that, members came out to put out packages. “Due to the weather we didn’t put out everything we had. We really did not know what to expect as far a response,” Mowday said. “However, despite the rain and the cold, within two hours, all but four packages of scarves had been claimed. This truly is an example of a village coming together. Everyone took time out of their own personal holiday preparations to, in many cases, make the items that were donated. The children were enthusiastic participants, and most importantly, those who needed a scarf got one.

“This was not just holiday spirit, but the giving spirit of the members of our board who all, whether they live in the borough or outside of it, consider Oxford their town,” Mowday said. “Even other Facebook pages’ members participated. We plan to continue to do projects which include our members for our community.”

The group plans another scarf tie in January. For more information, contact one of the administrators on O-Town Speak Up – New and Improved.