EUREKA -- When people hear "knitting circle," they likely don't think of a handful of college guys in sweatshirts.
But at Eureka College, maybe they should.
Junior Michael Drag and his six-man crew (dubbed Bearded Men Knitting Hats) are using their newfound skill to benefit a nearby women's shelter, Heart House, and hope to raise $1,000 through the project.
Each year, Drag and some of the others take part in a national fad dubbed "no-shave November." This fall, he thought it might be fun to add a charitable element.
"I figured ‘Let's do something useful' while we're doing the no-shave thing," said Drag, who hails from Mark. He asked his six friends, including long-time knitter Zane Ridings of Salem, Ore., to started pitching ideas.
The idea of knitting for charity came to Ridings as he listened to a class lecture on Buddhism's take on kindness and compassion, but he wasn't sure how his friends would react.
But the men, all freshmen except Drag, warmed to the idea.
"It's guy bonding time," said Drag, who noted the group has found the experience a good way to slow down in a culture known for its electronic barrage of videogames, social networking and texting.
"It's relaxing. And it's fulfilling to see the hat done," said Skyler Hankey, who rooms with fellow knitter Tim Jenkins. Both are from Watseka.
Bryan Meyer, of Dunlap, nodded in understanding when Dylan Foster of Darst said he's shocked a few people with his new hobby.
"I played football all my life, and when I told my mom I was knitting, she said, ‘What?' After a minute, she said, ‘That's great,' and she ordered some hats," said Foster.
Besides raising money, Bearded Men Knitting Hats also wants to help break gender stereotypes. Jenkins and Ridings volunteer at Heart House and like how the project raises awareness about women's issues.
"A lot of students don't even know it's there or what it does," said Jenkins.
Among the seven, only Ridings and Joshua Moore from Goodlettsville, Tenn., had needle-knitting experience. Hat-knitting loom kits have made the task easier for the beginners, with the group having already produced about 80 hats with donated yarn.
Each hat takes about three hours to complete, which translates to nearly 250 service hours for a month.
What: Bearded Men Knitting Hats
Who: Seven Eureka College students (participants in No-Shave November) added a charitable twist to the month-long game.
Details: Hats cost $10 each; orders are limited. Also, the group seeks knitters wishing to contribute time, or cash donations. All funds raised go to the Heart House in Eureka.
Info: Email firstname.lastname@example.org