Formerly Homeless Man Crochets 8 Hours A Day For ‘Project Warm-Up’

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Larry Abernathy is a math whiz. In third grade, he consistently finished his tests before other classmates, and that’s when he picked up his first pair of crochet hooks. Over several months, his teacher, Mrs. Weatherford, taught him crochet basics to keep him busy while others finished up their work. Now, more than fifty years later, he’s using those skills to keep the most vulnerable people in our community warm.

Larry crochets lap blankets for homeless people in his community.
Courtesy of Avista Utilities

“It’s very gratifying. It’s important for me to help keep people warm,” said Larry Abernathy.

If Larry isn’t volunteering at Meals on Wheels, he’s sitting on his couch, next to his puppy, Jinx, and crocheting a hat, scarf, or blanket. He has six or seven bins of yarn and projects in his living room at any given time.

He spends up to eight hours a day, often more, crocheting a new creation for RSVP Project Warm-Up, a non-profit dedicated to providing hats, blankets, and other handmade winter gear to homeless and low-income men, women, and children.

Larry stands next to a table full of his crochet creations for the homeless.
Courtesy of Avista Utilities

“I love that group. I’ve been blessed to be part of it,” said Larry.

Larry is one of 150 volunteers who knit, crochet, and sew warm hats and blankets. Last year, the volunteers made 15,000 items and donated them to 40 or so non-profits and homeless shelters.

This week, Larry will help distribute the items. He waits for this day all year.

“That’s like my Superbowl of Project Warm-up. And anyone who knows me knows I’m a big football guy,” said Larry.
Larry doesn’t like the cold. He knows all too well what it’s like to sleep on the streets.

“I was homeless about ten years ago. I’ve slept in people’s garages, parking lots, back porches. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. If I can help someone in a small way, I’m 100% in,” said Larry.

Bags full of donated crocheted winter clothing and blankets.
Courtesy of Avista Utilities

After about six months of homelessness, Larry got back on his feet and back to crocheting.

“When I was down and out, a lot of people stepped up to help me. Then, somewhere down the line, I knew I had to pay it forward,” said Larry.

Larry is paying it forward, one double crochet stitch at a time. It’s earned him the nickname Crochet Dude. But, as Larry will tell you, he doesn’t know very many other guys crocheting in their free time.

“People will say, ‘This man crochets?’ and I tell them, ‘I’m crocheting, yes, I crochet.’ I think it’s hilarious, and I love it,” said Larry.

The biggest joy comes from seeing someone around town wearing a blanket or his signature scat, a cross between a hat and scarf. The gift of warmth, made with love.

“It warms me up,” said Larry.

Larry holds up one of his crochet blankets.
Courtesy of Avista Utilities
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