By Kara Witherow, Editor
Each Wednesday evening, 13-year-old Grace Anne Hardin spends a few hours with her grandmother, great-grandmother, great-aunt, and a handful of other “mature” women.
Though Grace Anne is at least 50 years younger than most in the group, she’s in charge and they all take direction from her… at least on Wednesday evenings.
The teenager is not teaching the women how to text, though – she’s teaching them how to knit.
A lifelong member of Poulan United Methodist Church, Hardin has been knitting for the past two years. She began teaching knitting in February and has had a dedicated group of stitchers join her almost every week since.
Part outreach ministry and part social club, it’s a fun way to give back to those in her church and the community, Hardin says.
“It’s really fun being around them,” she said. “It’s pretty cool to be a younger teacher.”
Hardin’s great-grandmother, Lucille Porter, has always wanted to knit, so she jumped at the chance to learn from her great-granddaughter.
In the six months or so that she’s been knitting, Porter has completed two scarves and is working on a third. Several women are working on sarves while others knit baby blankets.
“It has been fun,” she said. “It is a social and learning time, both.”
Hardin’s deep connection with senior citizens really developed when Porter’s mother – Hardin’s great-great-grandmother – fell and fractured her hip, Porter said.
“When my mother fell and fractured her hip she didn’t want to go to a nursing home, she wanted to stay at my house,” Porter said. “(Grace Anne and her sisters) came here and helped. It was a blessing and not a chore, and helped prolong her life. We think that’s where her connection came from. It was something else.”
Vera Kilcrease, Hardin’s aunt, is also part of the knitting group. With no prior experience with knitting she thought she’d give the class a try to support her niece.
“I love to see young people get involved, especially in any kind of good organization, and Grace Anne has the most patience with people,” Kilcrease said. “It took me several weeks and at one point I thought, ‘I’m not going to be able to learn this,’ but now I really look forward to going and knitting!”
Teresa Hardin, Grace Anne’s mother, doesn’t knit, but it’s important to her that her children are active in church and serving.
“I’m really big on doing for others, helping other families in the community,” she said. “We try to make an effort, as much as we can, to go out and visit or take food, and to me, that’s huge, teaching children to do for others.”
So that’s why it was no surprise that Grace Anne stepped up to lead.
“Grace Anne … saw a need and decided to help,” said Rev. Nate Lehman, associate pastor of Porterfield Memorial UMC in Albany and former pastor of Poulan UMC. “Grace Anne is the perfect example of God using everyone to fulfill the ministry of the church.”