Professor creates Hats for the Homeless to benefit Danville’s House of Hope

A well-known Japanese proverb says, “One kind word can warm three winter months.”

Two local individuals, Jude Swanson and Richie Robertson, are giving out more than just one kind word to Danville’s homeless. Both are concerned about the physical warmth of the homeless people in the city.

Swanson has been the executive director of House of Hope, the local homeless shelter in Danville, since March. He is an Appomattox native and a graduate of Averett University. Swanson holds a degree in divinity and has co-pastored a church in Turbeville.

The House of Hope, a 16-bed facility on 206 St. Ridge St., offers services that include warm beds, hot showers, personal hygiene items, books, board games, and community television. Swanson says the shelter also offers their guests coats and hats during the cold months.

“Coats and hats are distributed to guests staying in the shelter,” he said. “Any guest for whom there is no space in the shelter can get a Street Outreach Bag that contains personal hygiene products as well as coats and hats.”

This is where Robertson, a Pittsylvania County native, Averett University alumna and 15-year associate professor in the business division at Danville Community College shares more than a warm word.

Robertson saw a need when she read an article about the House of Hope and then visited its webpage. Robertson and Swanson both agree that hats are vital in the survival of homeless individuals struggling in the winter environment.

Each year Robertson performs a community service project as part of her DCC professional development standard. This year she chose to knit hats for the homeless and donate them to the House of Hope.

She learned to knit at the age of 10 by reading a book.

“I bought a learn-how book and taught myself to knit and crochet — and everything else that was in the book,” Robertson said.

In the past she has made scarves, sweaters and afghans; however, this is her first time making knitted hats. To make knitting the hats easier, Robertson learned how to use a circular knitting needle by watching a YouTube video.

The hats are unisex, one size fits most and washable. She gets her yarn from various local places and it takes about six to seven hours to create each hat. Robertson has made nearly 80 hats since February and she has donated some of the hats to Guilford Technical Community College in North Carolina, where her husband teaches, for their community service project.

Robertson has done other community services projects that include making pillowcases for those in the hospital, making masks during the pandemic for health care centers and anyone else who needed them.

“Knitting is a slow process but a relaxing one, and it feels good to know that you can do something for someone less fortunate and to help others,” she said.

Robertson has already started making more hats and is thinking of making pillowcases for the House of Hope. This is good news for the House of Hope as Swanson reports the facility is in the middle of making expansions to service more of the homeless men, women and children of Danville and nearby communities as it is the only homeless shelter in the region.

The expansion will allow the shelter to service 42 guests instead of its usual 16.

One part of the expansion will be “Norma’s Place” in honor of House of Hope board member, Norma Brower. “Norma’s Place” will service and provide support services to women, single moms and their children.

Swanson also discussed the House of Hope’s upcoming fundraiser called The Coldest Night of the Year Walk.

“On Saturday, Feb. 25, the House of Hope will conduct our first fundraiser by having individuals form teams with their church members, co-workers, family or friends to do a walk during the coldest night of year in order to raise money for the House of Hope expansions,” he said.

The House of Hope accepts donations from local and regional churches and individuals. The facility has received grants from the city of Danville and other organizations to help with the expansion.

“My hope for the future is that the House of Hope can not only grow in size, but it can also grow in its capacity to help people,” he said.

Special to Register & Bee