Hats for Hope: Mercy APRN Knits Hats for Patients at Homeless Shelter

February 28, 2024

Mercy Fort Smith's Bob Langston recently found a unique way to do more for his patients.

Bob is an advanced practice nurse at Mercy Clinic Primary Care – Hope Campus, a clinic adjacent to the Riverview Hope Campus, a homeless shelter in Fort Smith. Most of the patients he sees are those who have been underserved and are in need.

Bob spent the winter knitting hats and soon had what he calls a “stockpile” of them. Hope Clinic co-workers Tabitha May and Mayra Recinos set up a display of hats for patients to take with them after appointments. Bob estimates they’ve given away 50 hats so far through “Hats for Hope.”  

“It’s actually gotten a little bit hard to keep up with demand, but we’re almost to spring, and hopefully I’ll be able to start again next fall,” he said. “It came as a surprise to me, but the hats have been really popular.”

Mercy doctor's coat Bob Langston, APRN, knits hats to give away to patients at Mercy Clinic Primary Care - Hope Campus.

Bob began knitting a few years ago during a bout with an illness and as something for him to do in the evenings. “I have a hard time sitting still. Mostly I just knit in the wintertime when I can’t be outside,” he said.

During his illness a few years ago, he began specifically knitting beanies. He figures each one uses about 4,000 stitches, and he can complete one in a few hours.

Clients at the Hope Campus are a unique population of patients with a unique set of needs. Many of the patients have chronic conditions and are in need of treatment and monitoring of those conditions. 

“We see a lot of patients who don’t have the ability to travel to other clinics and who come to us with complex needs,” said Kay McCarley, director of operations for Mercy Fort Smith primary care. “Bob saw a need in the community for the hats and then just stepped in to fill that need. It’s a great thing for our community to just meet their needs and take care of our people. I just think it’s really cool.”

Since coming to the Mercy Hope Clinic two years ago, “I’ve loved every minute of it,” Bob said. “We have a great group of patients, and I hope we’re providing a good service to them.”

It’s also gratifying for Bob to see his patients wearing the hats he’s knitted and given to them. He even created one hat in Kansas City Chiefs colors and was happy to see one of his patients wearing the hat ahead of this year’s Super Bowl.

“Sometimes I’ll be leaving work, walking out through the parking lot, and I’ll see one or two people in hats that I recognize,” he said. “That’s pretty neat.”