TOWNSEND -- This year, men, women and children in need received a warm Valentine's Day hug in the form of hand-knitted scarves.
In a unique first-of-its-kind class from Townsend Recreation called "Knitting for Hearts," Townsend knitters from beginners to masters gathered together to create hand-made scarves to be donated to charity.
Recreation Director Emy Hoff has long been contemplating how best to offer a class that could also double as charitable work when she began conversing with Melanie Saladino, an expert knitter, about offering a knitting class.
That's when the idea of "Knitting for Hearts" struck her.
"With the winter months being so cold and February being Valentine's Day, we thought of knitting a heart," said Hoff. "All participants have the option to donate their 'hearts' to charity."
The class is for ages 10 and up and is open to knitters of all experience levels. It will be held Feb. 27 and March 6 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The sessions will be in the Townsend Meeting Hall.
The department is requesting a $10 donation, payable to Townsend Recreation. The profit will be donated, along with the scarves. To help keep costs low, the department is looking for donations of yarn. Residents who sign up should also plan on bringing size nine needles and two skeins of worsted weight yarn. The department recommends Encore brand as good quality and inexpensive.
Hoff said the scarves will be donated to the Townsend Ecumenical Outreach or another similar organization.
"The idea, too, is what we keep trying to do at Townsend Rec is get people together, converge and socialize, learn about each other and learn new things. We want to keep investing in the community idea," said Hoff. "Offering a class that works for charity is pulling that whole thing in even further."
Hoff had known Saladino after enlisting her earlier in the year for a blogging class.
"That one was pretty serious. This one will be more lighthearted," said Saladino.
Saladino was 10 years old when her great aunt sat her down and taught her how to knit.
"She showed me how to knit a row, and it was great; I was totally hooked," said Saladino.
In her preteen years, Saladino began acting as her own teacher, furthering her knitting education through resources at the public library.
"I would get out these dusty old books on how to knit, how to crochet. I would make whatever was in the picture," said Saladino. "I thought it was really cool to make the old-timey things in the black and white photos and make it into a real thing."
Saladino has not stopped knitting since. The motions appeal to her mathematical mind.
"I like the rhythm of it, how my mind can go somewhere else. And I like to challenge of it," she said.
In addition to knitting and blogging, Saladino also quilts, sews, spins her own yarn and has authored two books. And that's all in her free time.
Saladino has also founded her own business as certified life and business coach and is married with five children age 4 to 17.
Although she has not taught a knitting class before, Saladino has taught all five of her children.
"I would think if I could teach my children, I could teach anyone," she said.
Additionally, Saladino said she greatly enjoyed teaching the blogging class and looks forward to continuing to teach.
"I really enjoy people. I love the look on their face when they get it and are able to produce the thing," she said. "It completely transforms people. It's a really neat experience."
She hopes her pupils walk away with more than the basic skills of knitting.
"I want them to come away with feeling like 'I can do that. I can be that. I can learn that,'" she said. "Knitting becomes a message for empowerment: If there's something I want, I can do it."
Follow on Twitter @Emily_Royalty.