How We’ve Formed a Knitting Community to Give Back to Those In Need

Our wrapping parties allow us to come together, celebrate the meaning in giving back, and collectively extend a hand to abuse victims.

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Handmade Especially for You knits comfort scarves for abused women who have sought the protection of a shelter.  We started at the end of 2008, delivering 300 comfort scarves to 3 shelters. Since then, we have distributed almost 124,000 scarves to 70 shelters throughout CA.  Wow. That took a lot of work! And it caused a lot of joy!  

Yes, the “work” of knitting and crocheting was tremendous.  To reward that work, we have wrapping parties at least once a month.  At the wrapping parties, we prepare the scarves for shipping. First, we check each one for quality.  We make sure there are no loose ends or dropped stitches. We check that the edges are even. We feel that since each scarf may be the first handmade gift the recipient has ever received, we want to make sure that it is perfect and beautiful.  Once the scarf passes muster, we make sure its maker has attached a gift tag and signed the gift tag with her first name. We want the scarf to arrive as a personal gift to the recipient, very individualized. After the shipping ready status has been certified, we roll the scarves and tie them with curling ribbon, and curl the ribbon.

The worktable is filled with scarves and cut ribbon.  We work as a team to wrap the scarves, to make them look festive and beautiful.  When we finish wrapping, we pack the scarves into boxes to ship to the shelters. When they open the boxes at the shelters, they tell us every box looks like


In 2015, the director of one of our shelters asked us to make items for the kids who arrive with their moms.  She explained the kids have themselves experienced abuse and/or witnessed it. They need the same therapy as the shelters provide for the moms.  As a result, we decided to make hats, beanies, tams, berets, etc. for these children. We hope receiving them will give them the same lift in spirits as receiving comfort scarves does for their moms.  Since we started shipping hats, we have provided 10,000 to the shelters that request them. At our recent wrapping party, we packed 700 to send to shelters for their holiday parties. Here’s what our hats look like:

They’re so nice, warm, colorful and cuddly.  It’s no wonder we have already received enthusiastic responses:

Union Rescue Mission in downtown Los Angeles has a branch that cares for homeless children.  Rebeka, their representative in charge of In-Kind Donations, requested 250 hats for these kids, which she told me they would distribute at Thanksgiving.   We sent 100 at first and then another 200. She is so happy with our donation: 

Hi Leslye,

FYI. We received the package for the kids today.  So wonderful!! Thank you so much. We appreciate this.

I will keep you updated. We will distribute them to the kids during thanksgiving and hope that I can be there too so I can send you some reports and perhaps some photos.

Again, thank you so much for caring our kids here at Union Rescue Mission. Blessings to you and all of the women who contribute in doing this project. We are very grateful for all that you do.

With Gratitude,

Rebeka Moeljono
Union Rescue Mission

 Linda Neely, Adopt a Family Coordinator at DV and Sexual Assault Coalition in Grass Valley, was also thrilled with the 50 kid’s hats we sent her.  She wrote:  The box of hats just arrived! Thank you so much! What a beautiful assortment!  

In like manner, Sarah Marr-Guertin, Development Manager at AACI in San Jose, thanked us profusely:

Hi Leslye, Thank you so much for the beautifully handmade beanies. I know some lucky kiddos are going to love them.  That was such a kind and thoughtful contribution.   Wow!

Honestly, it feels so great that the shelters really love what we send.   My buttons are popping I’m so proud of all we do.

I always share these appreciations with our group.  Warm letters such as these keep us motivated. We love making the scarves and hats; doing so validates our creativity and usefulness to the community.  Many of us retired a while back, but we do not fit the stereotype of typical retirees. We are still busy!

Wrapping parties also keep us going.  After all the scarves are wrapped, after all the boxes are packed, we have lunch.  Lunch is a combination of dishes I make for everyone and pot-luck dishes that that volunteers bring for all to share.  I pick what I hope will be an interesting theme. Sometimes the theme is seasonal; sometimes it’s based on an unusual ingredient.  Sometimes it’s really pot-luck. This time I featured Moroccan dishes. I served couscous and several Moroccan vegetable salads (many of our participants are vegetarians).  And we had a huge fruit platter for dessert.

Honestly, a good time was had by all!  And that’s the point.  

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