For the Itemizer-Observer
FALLS CITY — Hundreds of Polk County babies are less vulnerable to heat and cold because Gerald Fink has them covered.
If they could, they might well tip their hats to him because (thanks to him and his wife Zantha) they have hats to tip. The Dallas couple has made more than 400 knit hats for babies since September of 2018.
Gerald Fink never thought he would end up in the baby hat production business when he innocently entered an arts and crafts store five years ago. He was checking things out when he spied a knitting loom.
“I bought it and some yarn and just starting knitting,” Fink said. “It was just to see what things looked like when they were done.”
Deb Darr, a retired Dallas librarian, knew a way to put Fink’s hobby to constructive use.
“I volunteered at the library with Deb, and she knew that I made some hats,” Fink said. “So she asked me to make some for her.”
Darr began the annual Warm & Fuzzy clothing drive more than 30 years ago. As part of the drive, she collects and distributes hats to newborn babies at Salem Hospital, Corvallis’ Good Samaritan Hospital and other locations.
She also provides hats for babies through the Polk County Health Department that parents can pick up when they bring their babies in for their first round of immunizations.
“If a parent would like to have one, they can,” Darr said.
The Finks have contributed 450 hats, she said. Beverly Kentch also deserves credit for making sure babies’ heads are covered, she added.
“They’re paying for the yarn, and the yarn is not inexpensive,” Darr said. “They definitely deserve to be recognized. They’re behind-the-scenes kind of people. That is a lot of time and effort, and its’ really appreciated.”
Dr. Charles Shubin would be appreciative as well. A leading national crusader against child abuse, Shubin died Dec. 28 after many years as the director of pediatrics at Mercy Family Care, a division of Family Health Centers of Baltimore.
He devoted his career to protecting children, campaigning passionately on such causes as Shaken Baby Syndrome.
“Never, never shake a child,” read a sign in his Baltimore medical office.
Shubin was also passionate about keeping newborns’ heads covered both summer and winter.
“Babies need hats more than we do because their heads are proportionately bigger compared to their bodies than ours, resulting in more heat transfer, so a hat prevents too much heating or cooling of the baby,” Shubin told the parenting website Romper in 2017.
Darr agrees. “When babies are first born, they need to keep that core body temperatures, and the hats help do that,” she said.
Gerald Fink said he makes more than just baby hats. He and his wife, who knits with needles, also make hats for adults. Some of them go to people who are experiencing homelessness. Others just go to anyone who needs to keep her or his head covered.
“If there’s a need, we try to get it met,” Darr said.
Fink said the hats are relatively easy. “The larger hats take about a day if I stay at it.” he said. “The smaller ones I can do two or three a day.”
The Warm & Fuzzy clothing drive usually starts the week of Thanksgiving and extends through the first week of January. However, Darr said it’s really ongoing — especially as communities deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
“People are still in need and we’re grateful we still have people contributing,” she said.
Cash donations are always used to buy socks.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re matched,” Darr said. “If they are still clean and useable, we match them up and send them.”
The hats warm more than the heads of the infants and others who wear them. Darr said she saw a man last December wearing a hat that had just been donated.
“That warmed my heart,” she said.
More information on the Warm & Fuzzy clothing drives and efforts to provide hats for infants is available by calling Deb Darr at 503-787-3888.