Scarves that warm the heart
By Rebecca Villaneda Palos Verdes Peninsula News
Monday, August 17, 2009 10:49 AM PDT
Leslye Borden started Handmade With Love Especially For You, a project that donates hand-knitted scarves to women in shelters, including Rainbow Services in San Pedro. To date, Borden and her fellow knitters have donated almost 2,000 scarves.
Leslye Borden took her knitting hobby to another level.
After she saw her handmade pieces in her daughter’s “give-away bin” she knew she needed new recipients for her colorful gifts.
In came June Grossberg, owner of Torrance’s Concepts in Yarn.
Together the two came up with the idea to donate Borden’s creative works women’s shelters in the South Bay and Orange County, and called the project Handmade with Love Especially for You.
The first to receive the warm wraparounds was Rainbow Services in San Pedro, and others soon followed, bringing her total donated scarves to 1,900 since beginning last October.
“You know how a knit scarf or a knit shawl stretches — when a woman puts it on, you almost get a hug from it,” said Judy Hessick, director of development at Rainbow Services, adding that these gifts have done wonders for the women’s self-esteem.
“I originated the idea thinking that women would use them like security blankets, like they would feel good and they would feel pretty and that they would love them, and it would just be a gift to make them feel special,” said Borden, a Rancho Palos Verdes resident. “The knitting of the scarf is a real labor of love, and my husband designed these cute little tags that we attach to each one.”
Grateful for their scarves, the women addressed each thank you note specifically to the person who made their scarf — a gesture that greatly delighted the knitters, Borden said.
With kind donations from different yarn companies, Borden is sure she will fill the requests for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but she adds she could use fellow knitters and crocheters to help fill that quota.
Right now Borden and others meet Wednesday evenings at Concepts in Yarn, but she also knits in other groups, like senior centers, as well as the Rolling Hills Community Church, where others volunteer their time.
“I think they like the camaraderie of one another as much as they like what it is they are doing, and they like sharing their ideas, and Leslye, she is just one incredible lady,” Grossberg said. “When you set out to do something with her, it doesn’t take days — it takes minutes because she is on top of it immediately. I know for Leslye it’s been a real emotional experience going to the centers and meeting some of the women and children who have received the gifts.”
The women who turn to these shelters are getting themselves and their children out of dangerous and bad situations.
At Rainbow Services alone, the shelter helps about 250 families monthly, said Hessick.
“We have 26 beds at our emergency shelter and clients [stay] there for up to two months; some stay a shorter time,” she said. “We have nine apartments for our transitional shelter clients; they stay with us a year. What’s staggering is on an average each client has probably two, two and a half children. So there’s a tremendous amount of work we do with the children, too.”
The scarves may not seem like much to an outsider, but to these women who are escaping abuse, it’s a gift and a symbol that someone cares, Hessick added.
“Several [women] thought they were so beautiful, but the one that was most touching was one who said she couldn’t believe someone who didn’t know her would make her such a beautiful scarf.”
Said Grossberg, “We don’t know what their history is, we don’t know what’s gone on before, nor do I think we need to know. We know that they have wonderful courage to finally get themselves out of the situations that they are in.
“It’s a definite step in the right direction and I think we as women need to support women who are not as fortunate as we are. And I think [Leslye] senses that a great deal,” she added.
Borden has yet to obtain the 501(c)3 title, but hopes to get some help with that aspect of her giving project in the near future.
But for now, Borden has many people involved in her knitting circle contributing to Handmade with Love Especially for You. She has Easter Seals of Torrance wind balls of yarn for her and a mentally disabled Norwalk man who donates a few scarves here and there.
“I think it’s so wonderful to have so many different groups included,” Borden said. “It’s a feel-good thing all over the place.”
For more information about the scarves donations or to get involved as a knitter, visit www.handmadeespecially.org