Students Warm up to Helping Others with Knitting, Music

Karen P. Johnson, Recorder Staff - Greenfield (October, 2003)

Joe Skutnik, 13, and Jarad Weeks, 14, had self-interested intentions when they asked their teacher to show them how to knit mittens for their elective class at Greenfield Center School.

They were going to use the mittens to promote their band, Lost Mittens, and were hoping to sell them on their Web site.

It turns out mittens are too hard for beginning knitters to make, so Kathleen Gorke, who teaches seventh and eighth grade, taught them to make hats and scarves instead.

It also turns out Skutnik and Weeks are more interested in helping others than helping themselves.

After studying the inequities of society in their social studies class, their teacher Bob Strachota’s suggestion to donate their knitted hats to The Recorder’s fall charity, Warm the Children, sounded more appealing than helping themselves.

“We found out about it from our teacher Bob (Strachota.) We got really into the idea,” Skutnik said. “I think it’s a really good idea.”

“I knew about (Warm the Children) because every year our school does something for it. This is our (grade’s) first year doing something for it, so it’s pretty cool,” Weeks said.

This is Warm the Children’s 13th year providing families with new winter clothes. Each year, The Recorder solicits donations from individuals and organizations, some of whom in turn have fund-raisers to donate money. The Recorder absorbs all administration costs, so all donated money goes directly to provide clothes for the children.

Laura Baker, director of the Greenfield Center School, said the school has a tradition of giving to Warm the Children. Last year, the second- and third-graders sewed polar fleece scarves and donated them to the Warm the Children store.

“It’s a tradition of the school to work to make a difference in the world,” Baker said.

Gorke said about 15 students started the knitting class, but only eight are still doing it. She thought it was a wonderful idea for the kids to donate their work.


Joe Skutnik on drums and Jarad Weeks, eight-grade students at the Greenfield Center School, have formed a band called Teller Extent and are among students knitting hats and scarves for Warm the Children

“The school is always looking at social justice and how we can be active in the community,” Gorke said.

She wants the students to learn empathy to help them “understand the world and choose how to make it better.”

Weeks said he is disgusted to know that parents, even in Massachusetts, can’t always afford warm clothes for their children.

“I think it’s really sick and twisted,” Weeks said. “I don’t like it at all. I wish more people did stuff about that.”

She said it only takes a couple of days for some of the students to make a hat — many work on them during their other classes. But, she isn’t sure how many they will end up giving to Warm the Children.

“Some folks are getting attached to their first projects,” Gorke.

“This hat is going to be mine, but I’m going to make more hats. This one didn’t come out right,” Weeks said, while fingering a loose string secured to his hat with a safety-pin.

Lost Mittens, which recently changed its name to Teller Extent, has two members who don’t attend Greenfield Center School: Chris Reid, 14, who plays bass, and Rosie Walunas, 14, who sings and plays lead guitar.

Skutnik, who plays drums, and Weeks, who plays guitar and bagpipes, started playing together four years ago. Weeks sold his bass to Reid and taught him how to play, and he joined the band last year. Walunas joined about six months ago and was the one who encouraged the name change.

“She thought it was too kidish,” Weeks said.

Skutnik said he can’t put Teller Extent’s sound into a genre, but Weeks called it “punk-rockish.”

Rachael Nordstrom, 13 and a student at the Center School, is the band’s manager. After hearing about a Nov. 1 Warm the Children Benefit Concert, she decided Teller Extent should do more for Warm the Children by performing at the concert.

Nordstrom spoke with concert organizer Michael Slahetka of Northeast Talent and Booking, and she said, he told her the band’s punk style would not fit in with the crowd he expects at the Stillwaters Restaurant concert. But, he said he would help her organize a Warm the Children Benefit Concert for teenagers.

She said she already contacted a couple of bands for it, and has looked at a few places for possible sites for the show. She plans to charge a cover at the door and donate all of it to Warm the Children. Anyone interested in helping her with this should call her at 773-8411.

For more information on how to get involved with Warm the Children call The Recorder at (413)772-0261.

For information about Greenfield Center School, which has been teaching children and teachers since 1981, contact Admissions at or call 413-773-1700.

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