National Volunteer Week spotlight: Tom Cornish, hat-maker extraordinaire

Apr 19, 2021

National Volunteer Week is April 18-24, when people across the country come together to serve others and improve their communities. Feel the joy of helping others by signing up to volunteer for The Salvation Army. 

There are lots of reasons why people volunteer – to help others, to occupy their leisure time, or to “give back” for some past kindness. But to one special volunteer named Tom Cornish, he says volunteering is good for the soul.

Tom has been volunteering all his life, most notably when he volunteered to serve his country during World War II on a Navy ship in the Pacific theater. Today, even at 96 years old, he is still using his unique set of skills to help others: He knits hats that he donates to The Salvation Army for those in need.

In fact, last year he knitted nearly 500 hats.

Why does he knit so much? “I work for the Lord – that’s what it’s all about,” Tom said.

Tom helped raise five children and now lives in a senior residence in the northern Twin Cities suburbs. He’s been knitting off and on for about 20 years, but he began knitting regularly about two years ago, soon after his wife passed away. He tries to knit at least one hat every day. 

“Some days I knit two,” Tom said. “Each hat takes me about four hours. It keeps me busy.” 

He also keeps busy by teaching others to knit. Tom said that one woman at his senior residence has already knitted 35 hats.

Each hat costs Tom almost $6 to make. “It’d cost about $9 per hat if I didn’t buy my wool on sale,” Tom said with a chuckle. 

The Salvation Army gives Tom’s hats to hundreds of people in need throughout the Twin Cities. 

“Tom is truly an inspiration to us,” said Lt. Colonel Dan Jennings, commander of The Salvation Army Northern Division, which serves Minnesota and North Dakota. “Here is a man who just wants to help people, and he is doing it the best way he knows how. We are immensely grateful for his service.”

The Salvation Army needs hundreds more volunteers to help respond to the huge increase in demand for services as a result of the pandemic. There are many ways to help – serving meals, sorting and packing food, admin help, and more – all while following strict COVID-19 safety guidelines. 

“We take pride in finding opportunities that match up with a volunteer’s abilities or skills,” said Haley Nelson, Director of Volunteer Services at The Salvation Army. “Tom’s amazing contribution illustrates that there is something everyone can do to help people who are less fortunate.”

Watch a video of Tom’s story, as told by KARE11’s award-winning journalist Boyd Huppert.

Please join The Salvation Army in serving those affected by the COVID-19 crisis by giving a donation or signing up to volunteer. Your help will provide assistance and hope for people and families in desperate need.

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