Each year my daughter and I knit hats for homeless people and donate them to various shelters, soup kitchens, and sometimes just hand them out on the streets of NYC where my daughter goes to school. It started out as a way to use up leftover yarn and know we actually purchase yarn for the project. We did get a rather large donation from WEBS which is a great yarn store in Northampton, MA (www.yarn.com).
The pattern is very easy. We use size 10 or 10.5 16" circular knitting needles (double pointed needles would also work). It takes approximately 150 yards of worsted weight yarn to make one hat. Cast on 84 stiches. Place marker at the beginning of the round and you join in a circle and knit one, purl one around until the hat measures 10 ". Then begin the decrease rows. Decrease row one: * knit/purl for 5 stitches and then decrease one stitch (I like the slip as if to knit, knit one and passover method)* Continue from * to * around to the row marker. Next row: knit the knit stiches and purl the purl stitches. Decrease row two: "knit/purl for 4 stitches and then decrease one stitch*. Continue from * to * around to the row marker. Next row: knit the knit stiches and purl the purl stitches. Continue to decrease every other row with one fewer stitches between decreases and then knit/purl one row even until there are 12 stitches on the needles. (You'll probably have to switch to double pointed needles when there are about 48 stiches left.) Then cut a long tail. Thread through a tapestry needle and run it through all 12 stitches. pull tight and weave in the ends.
It's a great project and there are a lot of cold heads out there. It takes me about 5-6 hours to make one hat, so I can't do too many in one season. So, if you want to help...start knitting.