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Wendy Reuer, Published December 21 2012

Chicks with Sticks knit for a cause

Fargo - What started as a fun theme to a retirement party has turned into a once-a-month meeting of Chicks with Sticks, and hundreds of hats, scarves and mittens for international students at North Dakota State University.

CeCe Rohwedder, who works in the NDSU Office of the Vice President for Information Technology, said the group, self-dubbed Chicks with Sticks, began when office mates were asked to bring yarn to a retirement party for Bonnie Neas in December 2011.

“She was an enthusiastic knitter, but she never really had much time to knit with the demands on her time,” Rohwedder said. “When she started to plan for retirement, we told her, ‘Now you’ll have to time to knit.’ ”

And since “nobody wants to knit alone,” as Rohwedder said, the two women – along with Teri Grosz, Denise Roehl, Lisa Gigler and Jodee Hanson – decided to get together once a month and knit.

“We’d get together and it would keep us in touch and keep us involved in the past time that we love,” Rohwedder said.

But then Rohwedder said the group thought it “would be nice” to have a cause, a purpose to their knitting.

Neas had knitted a scarf and hat for an international student who needed warmer clothes and the idea was born to donate the cold-weather wear to any international student who needed warm weather gear.

Chicks with Sticks offered more than 100 hand-knit winter wear in October to the Office of International Programs.

Lisa Hauck, director of international programs at NDSU, said an email went to students alerting them about the warm-weather gear up for grabs and by noon the next day all the pieces had been spoken for.

“Every single one a was unique item,” Hauck said. “(Students) were just incredibly appreciative.”

There are more than 1,100 international students studying at NDSU from almost 80 countries, Hauck said. Many of the students come from Southeast Asia, a much warmer climate.

Hauck said students can purchase warm wear, but receiving gifts from Chicks with Sticks is something special.

“There’s something incredibly warming about a group of people here at NDSU who were thinking of the students and decided to just do it,” she said. “Long after students leave NDSU, they’ll keep those items and remember who welcomed them.”

Rohwedder, a native of Greece who came to the U.S. as an exchange student and later to study at Valley City State Technical College in Valley City, knows just what a warm scarf and hat can mean to someone not used to the cold weather.

“You’re not prepared at all. You don’t know where to start,” she said. “We know how good it feels to be in a new community where the people embrace you and do something nice for you. I’m still trying to repay all the kindnesses like that, and I’ll never do it.”

Chicks with Sticks has taken December off due to busy holiday schedules. But they plan to regroup in January and once again offer knit-wear to international students.

“(The students) just make our stuff look so much better than anything else,” Rohwedder said. “We didn’t expect anybody to pay attention to what we’re doing; we love to knit and we love kids.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530