In March, 2007, Muhlenberg Community Library (Reading, PA) opened their doors to a group of women who wanted to knit together. We soon decided to knit for charities, and we named ourselves Nice Knitters. It was hard to find any local charity that wanted knitted items in the spring, but I persuaded Opportunity House, a homeless shelter, that they could use Christmas stockings. Besides the 20 stockings that we gave to them that December, we made 140 other items that went to whoever would accept them.
By the end of 2007, we finally had developed a group of local charities that needed baby items, hospice care items, hats, scarves, and more Christmas stockings. We have donated to about a dozen charities over the years, but there are seven that we continues to support:
1. Children's Home of Reading needs at least 60 Christmas stockings annually, plus afghans, wash cloths, baby and children's clothes, and hat and scarf sets.
2. Berks Women in Crisis gives toiletry bags to each of the women who come into the shelter, so we give them about 300 every year, besides the wash cloths, hats and scarf sets and 60 Christmas stockings.
3. Berks Homeless Coalition receives at least 50 hats, 50 scarves and 50 pairs of mittens.
4. Mary's Shelter gets at least 20 Christmas stockings and as many baby blankets and infant clothes as we can provide.
5. Berks Visiting Nurse Association uses a variety of items in the Home Healthcare unit, plus the baby hat and blankets sets that they distribute in their well-baby clinics.
6. Reading Hospital and Medical Center needs baby hats, chemo hats, lap robes, prayer shawls, plus Christmas ornaments for any one who is hospitalized on Christmas DAy. We provide about 1/3 of their knitting needs.
7. Opportunity House receives about 40 Christmas stockings, plus cold weather items -- hats, scarves, etc.
In nearly seven years, we have made and donated more than 19,000 items to local charities, about 3000 each year.
After my sister died, and I had no one in the family to knit with, I was thrilled when the Muhlenberg library welcomed us. We began merely as a social group, but our families all had as much hand knitted clothes as they could use. Our decision to knit for charities was unanimous. We began with only three women, but we now have an average of thirty contributors at any time. Most of the yarn that we use is now donated to us, and we get a variety of Lion brand yarns. I personally love to work with Vanna's Choice and I've used Tweed Stripes for several family gifts.
We have been fortunate that some of the organizations that we support have newsletters. Our contact people in the groups have had acticles about us in their news letters. Opportunity House recommended me to the Reading Eagle for a "Person of the Week" article, and we have had other mentions in the Reading Eagle as a contributor to various organizations and functions.
I spend more time than most of the other members because I also do all the record keeping and distributions, and I sort and store the donated yarn. We meet twice a week, once in the evenings and once in the daytime. Anywhere from four to fourteen people attend the meetings. They bring their finished projects which they record on their individual cards, and we spend a couple hours working together. I then take everything home, sort the donations, determine which charity it should go to, and pack it away until I'm ready to make a distribution run. I also enter the information from each of their card into a program that my daughtetr developed for me. At the end of each year, every charity and every member receives a listing of all items the charity received or the member donated.
After every distribution run, the thank you letters arrive. I have direct contact with the charities, but the members have only the letters to see how much their work is appreciated. Occasionally one of the clients of the organizations we support will send a personal thank you note. We especially like the pictures of infants wearing one of our hats and wrapped in the matching balnket.
Our group has been successful because we don't concentate on a single item -- prayer shawls or baby blankets. Members can make whatever they enjoy making, and we share patterns and ideas freely. Skill levels vary, and we eagerly help each other with problems. The talent and generosity that is evident in these women constantly amazes me. I don't know how many people our efforts have helped, but we have also helped ourselves.