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Person of the Week: Asheville man crochets hats for homeless

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Since November, Jason Hawbaker has crocheted 30 hats for the homeless and others in need. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

A local man recently discovered his calling, and made it part of a heartwarming mission to make a difference in the material world.

Since November, Jason Hawbaker has crocheted 30 hats for the homeless and others in need.

Our News 13 Person of the Week said he is "finding a creative way to give back."

Even when the weather is unseasonably warm, the city's streets can still feel cold. Hawbaker's random acts of kindness give hope to people at places including The Salvation Army on Haywood Street.

"Happy New Year! Do any one of you need a scarf?" he asked recently.

Meeting them puts a face to the names and the need.

"Nice to meet you," Jason said, shaking a woman's hand. "Nice to meet you, Shirley."

"I think it's really nice what he's doing," said Shirley Knight, who's homeless. "It's really sweet, because he takes his time to make these hats and scarves and stuff and give them to people."

"Very well received like, 'Thank you, God bless you!'" Hawbaker said, insisting that people do him a favor by taking hats and scarves off his hands.

"My apartment would be overrun with hats and blankets, because I'm just doing it for fun, and I have nobody to give it to," he said.

In his spare time, Hawbaker's fingers are in a therapeutic frenzy. He mostly works out of his car when he puts his passion in gear.

"I bet we're getting some pretty odd looks," he said. "I saw a shirt the other day, 'I crochet so that I don't unravel,' and that kind of really resonates with me."

His craft is part of an awakening of sorts. Two years ago, he learned how to crochet so he could make a blanket as a gift for his pregnant niece.

The hobby's given him a new sense of self.

"We reach a spot in our 40s where our creativity opens up in different ways," he said. "Do we let go of who we think we're supposed to be, and just allow ourselves to be doing what we love?"

Crocheting is his answer when life's questions get way too complicated.

"I'm doing something that I love, and I can give back to somebody," he said.

Hawbaker said once friends found out he was crocheting for the homeless, they began contributing money to cover his yarn costs.

He's discovered a sense of peace -- and he wears it well.

"A toboggan, a hat, a cap, you know," he said, trying one on. "And all my hats have been tested on my head, to make sure they fit."

It takes him about an hour to make a hat.

He gives them away at homeless shelters, bus stops and sometimes at schools.

"I crochet hats, and I just hand them out to people that need them," he explained at The Salvation Army.

"Hopefully, it'll keep you warm," Jason said as a woman put a hat on. "That's the idea."

Christmas is behind us, but his spirit of giving touches folks who sometimes feel like no one cares.

"You know you help people," a homeless woman said. "Do you have a Santa Claus hat and a beard?"

"I don't," Jason replied. "But maybe I can crochet one."

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