July 11, 2014 at 1:00 am

Handmade

St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church helps needy - stitch by stitch

Maggie Ciaramitaro, left, and Josie Dehelean of the St. Joan of Arc Knitting/Crocheting Ministry show some of the items the group made. (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)

There’s lots of laughter and chitchatting among a group of women who meet from 1-3p.m. every Wednesday afternoon from September through June at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in St. Clair Shores. There’s always coffee and tea, and, occasionally, something delicious to munch on.

These women are members of the St. Joan of Arc Knitting/Crochet Ministry, and in spite of all the fun they’re having, they’re actually doing some very serious work — helping those in need by knitting and crocheting winter accessories for charities throughout Metro Detroit.

The ministry was started 10 years ago by Monica Szabo of Grosse Pointe Woods, who gave up her leadership role last year so she could just sit and knit at the weekly meetings.

Josie Dehelean of Grosse Pointe Woods is now chairwoman, and Maggie Ciaramitaro of St. Clair Shores is co-chair. Together, they distribute yarn among nearly 40 members, who range in age from 42-90. The yarn is “generously given” to them by parishioners, nonparishioners and local yarn shops, including the Wool & the Floss in Grosse Pointe Park, Ewenique Knits in Royal Oak and the Knotted Needle in Grosse Pointe Woods.

“All of our yarn is donated,” Dehelean says. “But if someone is on a project and runs out of yarn, we’ll go out and buy our own (to finish it).”

Three times a year, in June, September and December, a “Blessing Day” is held at the church where representatives of local charities have been invited to pick up finished items sorted by tables, each bearing the name of a specific charity and the type of items it needs. “There are more homeless men, and they usually want brown, black, gray or taupe — duller colors,” Dehelean says.

The ministry helps homeless individuals by donating mostly hats and scarves to Brother Al at Song and Spirit Institute for Peace in Berkley, and St. Bonaventure Monastery and Crossroads, both in Detroit.

They also make donations to Fairlane Convalescent Center (lap robes and shawls), Sister Carol’s Warming Tree (hats, mittens and scarves), Beaumont Hospital-Grosse Pointe (lap robes and afghans), Compassion Pregnancy (baby items), Parents of Murdered Children (shawls), St. Augustine/St. Monica Catholic Church (baby items) and Detroit Public Schools (hats and scarves).

Membership is open to anyone, including nonparishioners. “We have about the same number of knitters and crocheters, and the ladies are very gracious to take time to teach you to knit or crochet if you don’t know how,” Dehelean says. Members are also welcome to knit or crochet at home and bring in their finished items on Blessing Day.

People who don’t knit or crochet, nor have the desire to learn, can still help provide warmth for those in need by purchasing hats and scarves to donate to the ministry. “We do accept bought articles, but we just don’t put our tag on them,” Dehelean says. (Their hang tags read: “This hand-made item has been prayed over and blessed by the St. Joan of Arc Knitting Ministry. God Bless You.”)

Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Church is at 22412 Overlake in St. Clair Shores. For more information on donating (yarn, finished projects, etc.) or becoming a member, contact the ministry at (586) 777-3670.

Detroit News Staff Writer Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or jbrown@detroitnews.com. For more news and giveaways, visit her blog at detroitnews.com/crafts.