It had the makings of a Christmas mystery.

Last Thursday, passersby in downtown Maryville may have noticed some eye-catching tree decorations as they strolled or drove down Broadway.

Tied to many of the trees were 30 or so knitted hats and scarves of varying size and color. Adult hats, children’s hats, headbands and pairs of gloves were all tied with string. Some were even stuffed down inside wooden posts. Attached to each was this note: “I am not lost ... If you are stuck out in the cold, please take what you need to keep warm!”

No group claimed credit for this act of kindness. A local knitting shop said it wasn’t responsible. Some said perhaps it was a nearby church. The items seem to have been hand-knitted. Whoever it was provided kindheartedness in this season of giving.

The gifts would certainly be appreciated as colder days are ahead.

Then another stroll down Broadway on Friday, just to see if the knitted offerings were still there. Most were gone, but eight or 10 were still attached to trees in front of Broadway Towers.

A hunch sent an inquisitive sort into the tower on the off-chance one of the residents might have a clue to what was up with the knitwear tied to the trees.

Hunch pays off

As it turned out, the mystery could have been solved without the gumshoe investigation. A check of the internet could have done the trick.

A couple of people relaxing in the lobby had seen an internet posting on Maryville Speaks Out about the just-in-time-for Christmas (and winter the cold) knitwear being offered to the homeless.

Credit for this special Christmas offering goes to April Armstrong Hoard, a para-professional who works with special-needs children at Alcoa Elementary School. In this effort, she shares accolades with her 7-year-old daughter Claire, a first-grader at AES; her husband Dallas, a 911 dispatcher; and all the people at AES who contributed knitted goods for the effort.

When contacted by phone, Hoard said she thought of the gift offering as a “pay it forward” gesture. She’d read about a similar activity on Facebook a year ago in a bigger city. She didn’t get to do it last year, but this year she decided to bring it home.

“I thought I would love to do something like that,” Hoard said. “Our community and staff (at AES) are all just one big family. I knew if I put word out people would respond, and they did.”

Springbook and Broadway

About 100 items were donated to be offered not just to the homeless but to anyone who needed a scarf or other knitted item to keep warm.

The largest number of items were tied to trees in the Springbrook Park area, and the rest were placed along Broadway. Hoard said her husband’s nana had lived in Broadway Towers, and she had noticed that the residents (who like to be independent) sometimes would take walks around downtown even when not dressed appropriately for winter.

Hoard said that while they were putting up the knits, a woman pulled up and asked if she could take something to put up down by the Health Department so someone in need there could find it.

“She prayed over it, and prayed for the family that would get it, and prayed for our family,” Hoard said. They ended up talking over the phone for an hour.

The mother of a substitute teacher at Alcoa Elementary, who loved to knit, had passed away in October, so the teacher donated four different items her mother had knitted.

“I said, ‘Are you sure? These are special,’ Hoard said. “She said that was just what her mother would have wanted to do herself.”

Hoard said it all has been a great, and she plans to do it again next year.

“I am thankful because this allowed my family to have a learning experience.”

Turns out, there was no mystery at all. It’s Christmas.

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