At the end of 2008, I knitted 30 scarves for abused women. I felt abused women were the least served and represented of all groups in our community and I wanted to help them. It took me a while to find a shelter (they’re very well hidden), but when I did, the director greeted me and my scarves warmly. In fact, she named them “comfort scarves,” because she felt they would be a hug around the neck.
Encouraged by this enthusiastic reception, I went to my local yarn shop. The owner loved the idea of knitted comfort scarves and offered to sponsor a group to make them. She encouraged her clients to participate and by the end of the year, we delivered 300 scarves to three shelters more or less in our neighborhood.
The directors of the three shelters gave us a lot of feedback about our comfort scarves. They told us the women who received them were amazed that anyone they didn’t know would make something for them. For several, it was the first personal gift they ever received. For many, I’d say all, it was the first handmade gift they ever got. The directors presented the scarves when the women arrived at the shelter, as a reward for leaving their abusive environment. The directors built on the thrill and happiness of receiving a scarf to encourage the women to begin the counseling and education they would need to choose an abuse-free future. Wow. What an impact.
Starting this organization, which I named “Handmade Especially for You,” and making comfort scarves made me feel great as well. I had worked for money all my life, in several different careers, and now I could work for free and help others. Women started coming to the yarn shop just to pick up kits so they could make comfort scarves. The store owner, now my friend and mentor, encouraged her suppliers to donate yarn to our cause. This was really going well.
As the word spread about comfort scarves and free yarn, more and more women wanted to participate to fill the need. We went to church groups, retirement homes, senior centers, libraries, clubs, etc. to recruit more scarf makers. Then we created teams of volunteers to measure yarn, to make kits, to wrap and ship the finished scarves. At least once a month, I served lunch to local volunteers to thank them for supporting Handmade. Participating in Handmade changed our lives, too. We were no longer “retirees” with nothing meaningful to do. We are contributing members of society, with important roles in the process of making and distributing comfort scarves.
We feel powerful. We are amazing. We have accomplished so much. Since we began, way back in 2008, we have made 123,875 comfort scarves for abused women and 9,655 hats for the children who arrive at the shelters with them. We have distributed these to 70+ shelters throughout CA. And we’re not done yet!
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