A warm heart offers warm hands to homeless
Over the last 10 years, Camille Scott has made presents for 1,344 men and women she's never met. The Voorhees retiree and mother of three began sewing and crocheting hats and scarves for needy people in 2005.
Over the last 10 years, Camille Scott has made presents for 1,344 men and women she's never met.
The Voorhees retiree and mother of three began sewing and crocheting hats and scarves for needy people in 2005.
She hasn't needed a thank you, much less publicity. But a friend of hers tipped me off about the gifts. And about Scott's gift, too.
"I was praying, and I heard, 'You need to make things for the homeless,' " Scott, 64, recalls. "I heard this number in my head: 1,000. I thought, seriously?
"Taking care of others was pretty much how I grew up," she adds. "But I didn't plan this."
Neat little rows of paper shopping bags, each hand-decorated with repurposed Christmas cards, are lined up on the front-room floor of the Sturbridge Lakes home Scott shares with her husband, Jonathan, a Temple University professor of finance.
Scott will deliver the bags to St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Burlington City. She'll bring more of her creations to St. Paul's Episcopal in Camden.
Scott's name for her ministry is Warm Hands, Warm Hearts.
"To me, this is a calling," she says. "It's something I'm supposed to do. So I do it."
Scott buys much of the fabric and yarn on sale, and says she's "never even added up" the cost. She works at her sewing machine or in front of the TV; a set of winter wear can take as long as three hours to complete.
Each set includes a hat, scarf, and pair of gloves (she buys those). This year she completed a record 225 sets - more than 600 hours', or about 25 days', worth of work.
"I start sewing in January," Scott says with a merry laugh.
"Camille is a blessing to us," says Mitch Morgan, director of the Sunday breakfast and dinner program at St. Paul's. As many as 150 people, most of whom "are just down on their luck," he says, come in for dinner.
Christmas gift bags, including underwear, personal care items, and Scott's handmade winter wear will be distributed Dec. 27.
"People appreciate it so much," Morgan says. "They appreciate a simple thing, a warm hat and scarf, that most people take for granted.
Like "divine intervention" is how longtime volunteer Toni Bonnette describes being able to connect Scott's ministry with St. Paul's Project Interaction program.
"Someone gave her my name. I got this phone call, and Camille told me what she was doing, and that she didn't know where to [donate] them," she recalls. "I said, 'Are you kidding?' "
Turns out that Bonnette, a retired Lindenwold special education teacher who lives in Haddonfield, had enlisted volunteers to assemble Christmas gift bags for meals-program clients. "We give them to all who are there to receive," she says.
At St. Mary's, "our people love her gift bags," says Pauline Wood, who with her husband and sister runs a program called Ladle of Love.
The volunteers started serving dinner once a week in 2004. Attendance is about 135 people, says Wood, 74, of Mansfield Township.
"Camille has such a commitment," she adds. "She's very creative, and her gifts are a pleasure to give."
Scott, who earned an art degree from Southern Methodist University, has other creative and charitable outlets as well.
"There are people all over the country who do what I do," she says.
And as for meeting a recipient of her generosity, "it would be nice," Scott says. "I take the Speed Line into the city, and sometimes I've looked at the passengers, and I've never seen anyone wearing my scarves or hats.
"But they end up where they need to be."