It’s not easy to find the right project to craft for charity, especially when there are so many out there! We’re thrilled to tell you about SACK, an inclusive idea started by Stacy Wiener. SACK stands for Serving a Community with Kindness. Stacy is starting a ‘soap sack movement’, donating much-needed basic toiletries in a heartfelt way. These handmade soap cozies are simple, but make a dramatic difference in the lives of the people who receive them. For more about her project, links to our soap sack patterns, and extra tips for how you can make a difference, read on!
Stacy lives near the beach, and many summer days, you’ll find her crafting near the water. One particularly warm day, she realized her current WIP – a big afghan – just wasn’t the right project to bring along. She went on the hunt, as many of us have, for a small, simple project, that would be fun & easy to craft while relaxing in the sun. That’s when she discovered soap sacks. Stacy found a pattern on Youtube, altered it for her skill level, and got to stitching.
Soap sacks are small bags, made out of all-cotton fibers, that you can pop a bar of soap in. The loop on top allows you hang the soap to dry. The fabric of the bag itself acts both as a washcloth and a means to keep the bar clean in between uses.
She was crafting with her local food pantry in mind. She’d been volunteering there long enough to notice that folks who visited the pantry often inquired about toiletries. People who dropped off donations usually brought food supplies, so the pantry rarely had toiletries to offer those in need. Stacy puts it this way: “If families in need have an extra dollar, they’ll likely buy pasta or peanut butter.” Basic toiletries create good hygiene habits, and therefore contribute to personal dignity and confidence. But people often overlook these essential items when they donate. Stacy decided to crochet 25 bags, add soap, and bring them with her the next time she volunteered.
Not only were patrons enormously grateful for a fresh bar of soap, they couldn’t believe they got to take these beautiful crafts with them. “I get to keep this?” they asked over and over. Stacy was on to something special.
In researching more groups to donate to, she realized just how much need there was in her own community. “It’s very well-to-do, but there are pockets with pantries, shelters, and transitional housing, and I would google by town or county to see who was taking donations,” Stacy explains. She would crochet a few dozen sacks, buy the soap, and absorb the cost herself. Occasionally, someone would approach her on the beach, drawn by the energy of her crafting. She’d describe her project, and to her surprise, they’d say, “I could do that with you.” Eventually, a small handful of people were crafting Stacy’s soap sacks.
Then, word of her project spread in a big way. This past December, her local paper did a small interview. She didn’t realize at the time, but the interview was posted online. Overnight, the story was picked up by hundreds of papers! She’d shared her email address, and soon she was receiving message from people all over the country. SACK was born – Supporting a Community with Kindness. She got a P.O. Box, for receiving donations, and set up a Facebook page, so people could share pattern ideas and yarn sales.
Stacy’s soap sacks are the perfect project for any crafter.
If you’re looking for a solo project, it’s great to travel with, and you’ll have the pattern memorized in no time.
But it’s also ideal if you want to start a crafting group – nothing brings people together like the spirit of giving!
Many older crafters have shared with her that this project has given them a great sense of import and accomplishment.
Lastly, it’s great for young people, too. They can pick it up easy, and make a difference in their community. Since she has a 12-year-old son, Stacy is passionate about easy ideas for young people to get involved.
Here at Lion Brand, we’ve worked with Stacy two create a simple pattern for her soap sacks, knit and crochet. The yarn you use must be cotton, since it needs to be soft (for use as a washcloth), and it also must dry well and launder very easily. For this reason, we’d recommend using our 24/7 Cotton Yarn. From just one skein you can craft about 3 sacks, so it’s a very economically-friendly project! For those living on a fixed income, it’s a cost-effective way to make a difference.
While Stacy receives many donations in the mail and distributes them in her area, her ultimate goal is for people to contribute in their own communities.
For those who feel overwhelmed finding and visiting a shelter or pantry by themselves, there are many churches groups that accept donations of this kind. “Chances are,” Stacy assures, “any church or group with a pantry can use toiletry donations.”
Once you make your first donation, she’s is confident your heart will swell, like hers did.
Stacy is pictured at the left, dropping off a donation of 225 soap sacks to United Way Monmouth and Ocean Counties. While some of her donations include soap sacks that have been mailed to her by others, Stacy estimates that she’s personally made and donated about 5,000 soap sacks.
“It’s been a lot,” she laughs, “but it’s been incredible – ‘rewarding’ is an understatement.”
Since many pantries lack toiletry supplies, it’s essential to include the soap while donating! Be sure to include the bar in its original packaging, or the pantry may not be able to accept the donation. Stacy suggests several ways to get your soap: “dollar stores as well as big box stores sell soap at a discounted price.” She’s also worked with local groups: Boy & Girl Scout troops, church and temple youth groups, Elks Lodges, and high school service clubs have all coordinated soap drives for her in the past year. In addition, stores and companies have donated, as well. Be creative!
Stacy always travels with a supply of soap sacks, and donates whenever she visits a new area. Many pantries she visits have never received toiletry donations before, and are in desperate need. They are overjoyed when Stacy arrives with her hand-crafted contributions! One volunteer receiving her donation said, “What a dignified way to give soap to our clients.”
Stacy recently met Samir Lakhani, founder of Eco Soap Bank in Pittsburgh and 2017 CNN Hero. His organization provides soap and hand washing instructions to under-served regions, such as Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, and South Africa. Stacy donated 333 soap sacks, which he will distribute.
She’s also connected with the KURA Project – a group working to improve opportunities for girls in Kenya. “There’s a need all over the world,” Stacy says. “It’s a dream come true to have this go beyond my county and my neighborhood, to become a ‘soap sack movement’,” as a friend of hers coined.
You can connect with Stacy and SACK on Facebook, by visiting the page for her group HERE. Since we know many crafters might prefer to connect another way, Stacy has generously shared her email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. A relative has offered to help her build a website, so that will be coming soon.