MKG Cable Gram - Volume 21, Number 3
Charitable Crafters was started in August of 2001 by Tina Shaddox of Duluth, Minnesota. Tina had been reading about programs to send hand-knit items to needy people in other countries, but really wanted to keep her efforts local. She saw the great need locally for warm hats & mittens, chemo caps and blankets. She thought that perhaps other local knitters and crafters felt the same way, and decided to advertise the idea of forming Charitable Crafters. She put up flyers at local yarn shops, and ran ads in some of the newspapers. To her amazement, people responded.
Tina wrote to different yarn companies, and donations of yarn & knitting supplies came in. Knitters began calling, asking what was needed, and Charitable Crafters was on its way. The group began meeting every other Sunday in Duluth and a donation bin was created at a local yarn store, both for donations of finished items as well as donated supplies. Tina recently updated the grand total and found that Charitable Crafters has surpassed the 6,500 mark in items donated. Charitable Crafters has over 100 volunteers from people in Minnesota and Wisconsin to as far away as California and Hawaii, due in large part to their presence on the internet at www.charitablecrafters.org. Charitable Crafters has also been the inspiration for several other similar crafting groups in neighboring cities.
Some of the organizations donated to include Oncology units and Newborn ICU's at local hospitals, nursing homes, veterans' homes, Bethany Crisis Nursery, and Safe Haven Women's Shelter. Charitable Crafters also donates to various social service organizations, the public schools, and even animal shelters.
Charitable Crafters also responds several times a year to urgent needs such as cage cozies for the animal shelter, kid-sized hats and mittens for The Kid's Closet, and there is always the Christmastime toy drive for the local hospitals. Area social service organizations have called on Charitable Crafters in times of need and one of the things that the group prides itself on is a quick turnaround time. Two years ago, when a volunteer from the Union Gospel Mission called to say that they didn't have enough warm hats and mittens, volunteers were able to donate over 200 hats, mittens, scarves, and sweaters within a month.
Not all of the donated items go to those in extreme need-some are used to ease the pain of someone in a sudden unfortunate situation.
In a recent thank you note a Minneapolis woman shared that her husband was recently deployed. Shortly thereafter, she and her young son were in the Duluth area for the Christmas holiday when he became ill. They went to the local hospital and ended up spending Christmas there. On Christmas Day he received one of the Charitable Crafters' teddy bears, complete with a pillow and bear-sized quilt. She said it really made a difficult situation much easier to handle! Along with the thank you note, she also sent a cash donation.
A social worker at a local hospice unit shared that being able to give a hand-knit Prayer Shawl to one of her dying patients not only eased the patient's pain, it added some light to her otherwise gloomy day. The prayer shawl also became a memento for the family to keep after the patient passed on.
A man once shared with Tina that his mother died of terminal cancer, but that she died happy. When questioned how she could've died happy, he said that for the last few months of her life, she knit little newborn baby hats, and even through the pain, it made her happy.
Recently Tina published a book of charity patterns in hopes it will inspire others. The book is a collaborative effort between Charitable Crafters volunteers and local social service organizations. Although Duluth/Superior charities and their needs are highlighted, the aim of the directory is to allow anyone, anywhere to learn what organizations in their community might need. The directories were printed in early June and are free upon request. Interested crafters can contact Tina via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 218-525-0046. A donation of postage would be greatly appreciated.
A few words about Tina personally: She is the mother of two very creative children-her daughter Marina knits and spins, and her son Ryan knits and crochets! Tina's favorite creations are the chemo caps she knits from handspun yarn (it's a project close to her heart, as her mother was a cancer patient). In addition to being the coordinator for Charitable Crafters, Tina stays extremely busy working full time, teaching a Fiber Arts Camp for Kids and teaching a variety of fiber-related classes for adults.
For more information: charitablecrafters.org. Copies of Charitable Crafters' book are now available in the Textile Center library.
Amy Rosenholm splits her time between her job as the Administrator for Northern Refractive Surgery Center and life as a wife and mother. She finds time to knit whenever she can!