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Thomas Jefferson graduation project turns into team effort

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 9:48 p.m.
Submitted | West Jefferson Hills School District
As a part of her senior project presentation, Lexi Stoicovy, a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School, brought in some beautiful handmade scarves. She and her mother starting knitting this summer and other crafters lent their talents to the cause. Ultimately, the warm wraps, gloves and hats will go to the clients at Sisters Place in Clairton. The organization offers support to single-parent families.

Generosity begets generosity.

When Lexi Stoicovy selected knitting winter scarves and giving them away for her graduation project, she never could have dreamed that others would join in her efforts.

A Thomas Jefferson High School junior, Lexi took her needlecraft skills to heart. Her mother, a family and consumer science teacher at the high school, had taught her the knit/purl rhythm, and the two spent a few hours every week since summer turning out neckwear — all to be given to Sisters Place in Clairton, a housing community that assists homeless, single-parent families.

“We do a lot of crafty things together,” the 16-year-old said of her mom, who also taught her to sew. “We're DIY-ers.”

Ultimately, the two created 35 scarves and were able to connect with their beneficiaries through the efforts of Tina Centinaro, faith formation director at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Baldwin Borough, Lexi's family church.

“She helped me pick them,” said Lexi, delighted she could help local people who might live there.

A flyer available to the St. Elizabeth congregation helped supply Lexi with donations of yarn and additional scarves. All the while, the Stoicovy women of Jefferson Hills knitted.

“It's hard to be at home and relax with two younger siblings,” she said. “Knitting is so relaxing. I can watch a movie or knit with my eyes closed.”

She even found extra time during study halls or when not taking notes in classes to finish yet another piece.

“I worked on more than one scarf at a time,” she said. “I did the bulky one at home and took the other one in my purse.”

At her church, she met with the women of the prayer shawl ministry who helped her make more scarves, not only for women, but for children and men.

“One scarf turned into five and then 20 and 40,” she said.

Neighbors and friends pitched in, too. Soon, the total grew to 85.

“My goal was 100,” Lexi said. “I would absolutely love to make it.”

In early January, an article in The Pittsburgh Catholic newspaper about the young woman's efforts encouraged more giving. Money was donated, as well as gloves and scarves. Local students decided to add hats to make an even warmer ensemble.

Centinaro, who has known Lexi since the first grade, was able to give her more than good news as project presentation day at the high school neared. At the rate of about two calls a week, the director said, others from Catholic parishes offered to support the scarf project.

Crafters from St. Kilian's in Mars joined the cause, as did those from St. Blaze parish in Midland. Random people also stepped up to keep their idle hands busy. More students volunteered to create fleece scarves. And the project grew. About 150 unplanned-for scarves will be coming Lexi's way.

“I'm so proud of what it has become,” she said. “I hope this catches on. Helping others is so important.”

From the beginning, Centinaro was fully supportive of the teen's altruism.

“This was an outpouring of youthfulness and care. After you talk to Lexi, it's like you met a daisy.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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