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Bringing Joy to the Newest Generation

Molly Sullivan, lead volunteer for AARP’s Community Action Network in Maple Grove, Minnesota, answered a call to service that came from the local hospital.

“Do you know anyone who can knit hats for newborns born at the hospital?” was the call from the hospital’s HR director.

“You’ve hit the jackpot,” was Molly’s answer.

Molly, a longtime knitter and AARP volunteer leader, put a request out to a group of knitters in her network. The group started as just five dedicated knitters, meeting every Monday to make baby hats. At the beginning of the project, the group estimated they could make 40 hats a month. When 150 babies were born the first month, Molly went back to the drawing board and recruited more knitters – and the group grew from 5 to 40.

Now, the group creates about 200 hats every Monday – and has grown to about 50 knitters. Each hat takes about one and one-half hours to make. More than 1,500 hats have been made so far.

“We are giving back to the community in a way that fits our talent and involves the younger generation,” Sullivan said. “We love doing this “labor of love.”

Since the Maple Grove hospital opened last December, there have been 883 babies born. Every single baby has received a handmade hat from the group.

"I expect we can do this forever," Sullivan said. "People just love this."

Nancy Hayes, another one of the original five, said there is a satisfaction in giving back to others, as she was fortunate to have healthy grandchildren. "It's a wonderful gift of handmade and personal work that means something," she added. "Parents understand that someone put love into each hat that was made."

The group doesn't only provide hats. Some members make "Momma Bags." These are soft diaper bags with pockets for bottles and wipes. She also makes layette sets, which include receiving blankets, changing pad, burp pad and bib that all match. The bags are given to less fortunate moms.

“Our CAN volunteers want to find ways to give back to the community while using our skills and talents,” said Sullivan. “We were lucky to make this connection. We love the friendship and fellowship we get from the group – and we love to be able to welcome babies with a gift of love from our generation to theirs.”

Using skills and talents to give back to local communities is what Community Action Networks are all about. CANs find the unique needs of their own community and spur others to service.

Join AARP’s Community Action Networks throughout the state as they find ways to help others. If you are interested in joining or starting a Community Action Network in your community, contact AARP at

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