I started Charitable Crafters back in August 2001 when I wanted to volunteer in my community but since I work full time and have two kids, it was hard to fit volunteer hours into my schedule. Since I love to spin, knit, crochet, and quilt, I thought I would start a group that would allow people to make anything that they wanted to make and I would give myself the job of finding homes for the donations. I wanted to have broad guidelines as far as what people can make because I feel that people are more likely to make things if they enjoy what they are making.
I started by calling various social service organizations in our town, battered women's shelters, homeless shelters, public schools, nursing homes, hospitals, and crisis nurseries. I kept track of what each organization needed and then I started to recruit volunteers. Beginning with a few flyers at our local yarn store and free ads in our local paper, I finally taught myself to design a website and we have worked our way up to 150 volunteers in the past four years.
Our group has benefited from the good graces of local merchants. Four local yarn/quilt stores have allowed us to put out donation bins and we have recently topped the 6000 mark in donations. We meet every other Sunday at one of our local yarn shops and we have worked together to plan charity crafting day retreats, handmade toy drives, and next January, we plan on holding a weekend crafting retreat. Our volunteers also helped out with a Charitable Crafters Directory which included patterns written by our volunteers and stories of the places that we donate to.
One of the benefits that I didn't expect when I started Charitable Crafters is the positive effect it has had on many elderly volunteers that are unable to get out of their homes and attend our get togethers, but who appreciate donations of yarn being brought to their homes. They work at their own pace and call me when they have a few projects finished and I come and pick up their donations and bring them more yarn. It has allowed these beautiful, caring people to feel connected to their community once again.
I have also had the opportunity to see our donations in action. One time, I went with my husband to the emergency room when he injured his leg and I witnessed a family being brought in via ambulance after a car accident. One of the nurses ran up to a small child on one of the gurneys and handed them one of our teddy bears. As soon as I could, I contacted the woman who made the bear to let her know it had gone to a good home.
Two of our favorite Lion Brand yarns that we use are Wool Ease and Homespun. The Wool Ease is great when we make hats and mittens for the kids at the public school because it can be washed so easily. Homespun is great when we make prayer shawls and baby blankets because it comes in so many beautiful colors and feels so snuggly.
Thanks to our local media, Charitable Crafters has gotten enough attention that social service organizations now contact us if they have a specific and immediate need. Thanks to our many volunteers on an emailed newsletter list, we have been able to respond to these requests in a timely manner.
August 2005 is our 4th anniversary. For something that started with a couple flyers at our local yarn store, I think we've come a long way!