Monday, December 10, 2007

Charity Knitting - beginning at home

An online friend of mine, Deborah Cooke, posted a challenge in her entry dated December 5th: After holiday knitting, why not devote January to knitting for charity?
I thought it was a terrific idea and committed to doing so (I may have a little sample knitting to do, but otherwise, I can devote my time to charity knitting)

Many U.S. Charities want to receive washable, non-wool knitted items. Most of the partial skeins in my stash are wool, many hand wash only.
This is why I began donating to Warm Woolies and Afghans for Afghans last year, but I wanted other options and began to look into what other charitable organizations accepted wool donations.
I posted the question on several groups on Ravelry, and compiled a list, which I will share with you later in this post.

Then a few things happened.
My sister-in-law Dawn runs a food pantry in Branch County, Michigan. I heard that the people who lined up for help and a Thanksgiving basket wound around several blocks this year. It made the local news, as no one realized how bad things had gotten in such a semi-rural area.

A dear friend of mine here in Michigan has been struggling to pay utilities and get the heat turned on in her rented home, but local charities are stretched to their limits this year. The land lord has been threatening eviction. Then the worst happened. County services took her children, since their home was in bad condition and unheated. Naturally, she is devastated.

This was a sharp wake up call. I began to truly think about what I can offer, and where it might be needed, and came to the conclusion that I was dead center in an area of tremendous need.

Michigan is in dire straits this year, with higher numbers of unemployed and homeless people than many other states. Our area is hit particularly hard, since the auto industry has laid off thousands (I am near Detroit). Combine that with the winter weather, and I realized that the best place to offer the few items I can crank out is right here in Ypsilanti.

There is a wonderful local organization called SOS Community Services. Here's a partial list of what they do in the community:
  • Short-term housing crisis counseling and case management
  • Eviction prevention
  • Utility assistance
  • Distribution of emergency food and personal hygiene items
  • Transportation assistance to a homeless shelter
  • Short-term shelter for homeless families and children
  • Intensive case management for homeless families
  • Subsidized transitional housing and supportive services for homeless families
  • Employability skills training and educational supports
  • Life skills training
  • Parenting programs and play groups
  • Therapeutic day care for homeless children
  • After-school and substance abuse prevention programs for
    homeless children
Here is a PDF of the FALL/WINTER wish list of items needed, should you be local and wish to help.

We are a single income family, so our money is relatively tight. We can donate food, pick up a few of the items needed when they are on sale, and I can knit.

A wool hat, particularly one with ear flaps can provide life-saving heat conservation. It's also faster for me to make hats than gloves or socks, and the hats I can make will be superior to any of the store-bought acrylic ones at providing warmth, particularly in damp cold weather. It is important to me that what I make be the best most efficient use of my knitting time and the yarn I have. I wish with all my heart we could lavish SOS with thousands, but maybe the little we can do can make a difference to a few.

I encourage you to look around locally and see what you can do, particularly if you live in a cold part of the world. I am in no way saying any of the charities giving overseas are unworthy, I have a few boxes for them I'm working on filling, too. Giving anywhere there is need is laudable.

Here are a few links garnered from fellow knitters on Ravelry, maybe one of them will be a good fit for you:

There is a church group in Dewitt, Michigan, providing knitted items to the homeless, I'm told they will take any fiber you can give. If you are on Ravelry, please contact Peony0505 for details.

"Our Mission is to make and donate baby items to several local hospitals, we'll offer website links, and charity info,advice as well." They are based in San Antonio, and also have a TEXAS SOLDIER SUPPORT GROUP and a MILITARY BABIES Support group.

Another place to donate is the DULAAN PROJECT
They state: "Mongolia's winter is extreme; the capital city, Ulanbaatar, is the coldest capital in the world. It rarely gets above freezing on winter days, and can plunge to -40ºF at night. To survive, many of the homeless live in the heating ducts below the nations cities. Warm, well-made clothing can allow a child to go to school or an adult to go to work; restore a sense of dignity; and, in some cases, literally save a life." Dulaan is Mongolian for "Warm".

Then there's Knit On's MITTENS FOR AKKOL project, which provides knitted items to orphans in Kazakhstan.

WARM WOOLIES gives to orphans in Eastern Europe, as well as to children closer to home on Reservations.
"Many orphanages in Eastern Europe are very poorly heated. Some do not have hot running water. The children share what few warm clothes there are. Often, the felted slippers we send serve as their only shoes.
Knitting for Rosebud - Knitting for Pine Ridge Reservation:
The Rosebud and Pine Ridge Reservations in South Dakota have the lowest per capita incomes in the United States. An Indian Country Today article reported that 29% of the people on the Rosebud Reservation are homeless, and 59% live in housing that is substandard. Warm children's clothing is scarce, both because of expense and because the reservations are geographically isolated."

AFGHANS FOR AFGHANS is well known in the knitting community.
They are coordinating a New Born campaign, items due in February, 2008
Here are some details:

"The CURE Hospital in Kabul has asked us to send these specific wool items for newborns:
* baby hats
(head circumference of 10" - 15"; caps need to cover ears; ear flaps and under-chin ties are acceptable; hats need some stretch for comfort over forehead)
* baby socks
(foot length of 2.5" - 3.5"; proper socks with heels; no booties or slippers, please; for knitters only)
* baby blankets
(minimum 40" x 30" -- please, NO smaller!; we'd love if crocheters could focus on blankets, as crochet goes faster and is thicker generally; please think dense, not lacy stitches)

CURE is one of the few hospitals that serves very sick babies in their neonatal unit. (We do not need items for premature babies. Just the sizes above.)"

(which reminds me, I have some socks and caps to get shipped to them, Lynn of Colorjoy donated some of the yarn for the caps.)

I hope in your busy lives, you can find time to give a little, whether it be money, time, knitting, or whatever you can. The smallest gesture can mean the world to someone who is facing huge challenges. It can generate a warmth of the soul on both sides, to help all of us make it through.


SOS Community Services said...


It is very kind of you to think of SOS. We have people walk through our doors every day that are in need to food, shelter and warmer clothing for the winter months.
Thanks so much for thinking of us!

Have a very happy holiday!

Ysabeau said...

Diana, your hats will make a huge difference in how much heat is retained, I don't remember the exact statistics, but much heat loss is from the head due to necessary circulation.

I'm not local to you, but I don't think "chilly" in California means the same thing as "chilly" in Michigan, so I'll see what I can collect up to send you for your local helping group.

After the holiday, I may be able to pick up some things for very little around here, since cold weather gear is less needed, so there is always some in clearance.

As you know, I usually send stuff to the Pine Ridge Reservation, too, they are suffering from the cold. It is a pity that more isn't being done on the grass roots level for those who need it, and you are making a difference. Hugs! Ysabeau

Lynx said...

Love you so much, Diana! Your love warms us even when the heat doesn't... thanks you for all your help, spiritually and otherwise. Am looking forward to my wristwarmers, knowing that they will be twice as warm because they are made with love by my best friend!!!

AnneH said...

That's great, Diana!!!

You might also want to look into felted hats since they would be virtually waterproof that way.

You can do scrap yarn shawls too when you don't have enough to do a hat. They work well as head coverings, scarves and for when it's chilly inside.

I agree that working with our local charities is definitely needed. I love your idea of making January "charity" knitting month. We don't have near the weather you do, but Jan and Feb are our "winter" months if we get any cold weather. (Right now, it's in the upper 70s.)

Alison said...

They took her children rather than subsidize her heating bill for her? How obscene is that! And how financially stupid anyway in terms of costs to the county. Wow.

JaM said...

Thanks for doing that research! I prefer knitting with wool, too. I like the way you've tracked down charities who accept wool items. Thanks again!