‘Yarmy’ ministry takes off in Coeur d’Alene

Community women serve others as part of the “Yarn Army.”

Once a week, women from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, meet at The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center to focus on service to others. This is not unusual within The Salvation Army; however, the growth of this intergenerational group—the “Yarmy” or “Yarn Army”—and its impact in the community is significant.

The Yarmy began as a small group of women who met on occasion to knit and crochet hats and scarves for the center’s Operation Clothe a Child program, which provides warm clothing for children in need. Traditionally, the Clothe a Child event occurs annually near Christmas, when the kids, accompanied by volunteers, shop for $100 worth of winter clothing. Afterward, they can select handmade Yarmy items.

“The kids may choose a handmade or store-bought hat and scarf,” Yarmy Leader Peni Stevens said. “When we tell them that the handmade ones were made with love and prayers knit into every stitch, they smile and choose the handmade scarves. I can remember one child with a big grin saying, ‘They pray for me?’”

As more women joined the group, more avenues of service opened. In 2018, the Coeur d’Alene Kroc Center held three Clothe a Child events, including the Yarmy items. In addition, the group partnered with the center’s Veterans Day program and luncheon to honor local veterans. Each veteran received a patriotic-themed handknit hat and scarf and seasonal ornaments. At every event, Yarmy ambassadors are there to make sure recipients know prayers have gone into the making of each item.

Six local hospitals have received preemie sets, and a system is now in place for maternity wings to request these Yarmy blessings. Meanwhile, some Yarmy women created a subgroup to meet the needs of mothers whose babies’ lives ended, often before they could hold them for the first time. They create boys’ and girls’ gowns from wedding dresses, incorporating prayers for the families into the garments along with lace, pearls, vests for the boys, soft blankets and matching hats. The maternity nurses offer the garments to the mothers.

Yarmy participants organize and take part in all phases of production. While they work, friendships form as they transform mountains of yarn into beautiful gifts.

“Yarmy isn’t a tea party group, and they’re not looking for entertainment, said Major Ronda Gilger, Kroc Corps Community Center Corps Officer. “There is deep joy and friendship and sense of purpose. Their reward is in the ministry of service, knowing that the work of their hands, bathed in prayer, leaves a legacy of love.”

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