Written and Photography by Cheryl A. Fallstead
Knitters and crocheters are known to be people with warm hearts because, besides making a wide range of projects with yarn for themselves, family, and friends, many also create their crafts for complete strangers who are in need. From baby hats to scarves for vets or the homeless, from socks for soldiers to knitted “knockers” for breast cancer patients, from blankets to sweaters, they are working their knitting needles and crochet hooks to help others around the world.
Some projects are hyper-local with all crafts staying within the community. Others are distributed to spots around the world. Needle workers have a multitude of projects for which they can create. All they need to do is find the one that resonates with their passions.
Project Linus is a national organization with a local chapter of 70 enthusiastic “blanketeers” and numerous anonymous crafters who create over 300 quilts and knitted or crocheted blankets each month for children from birth to age 18, which are then distributed to 38 organizations including hospitals, police and fire departments, and community agencies. The group meets the third Wednesday monthly at Good Samaritan in the Creative Arts Room (3011 Buena Vida Circle) from 9am until noon, to work on projects together, turn in what they’ve completed at home, and sort them for distribution. They created 3,621 blankets just last year. Crafters don’t need to attend the meeting to donate, however, as finished projects or donated acrylic yarn can also be dropped off at Joann, Bernina, Sew What’s New, or Quillin Fiber Arts. Volunteer Karen Luces says all blankets must be new, explaining children can know, “I have a new blanket and it’s all mine.”
Marilyn Harvey, who started making knitted baby caps for charity, has made over 190 blankets for Project Linus since she started knitting for them in 2011. She says, “We travel a lot and I knit wherever we go.”
Unravelers Knitting Guild
The Unravelers Knitting Guild is an organization of knitters, many of whom participate in charitable projects. In 2017, they made knitted toys which were given to the police department to distribute to children in distressed situations. They also gift La Casa with washcloths, hats, scarves, and other items for the families the organization serves. They meet the second Saturday of the month from 10am until noon at Encantada Mobile Home Park on Solano in the community room. Membership is $10 per year.
My Place Jewell
Dedri Quillin of Quillin Fiber Arts last year collected knitted scarves as part of Knit Your Bit, a national program to provide warm scarves for veterans. Last year she delivered over 100 scarves to the veterans’ home in Truth or Consequences. Jewell, of My Place Jewell, who is both a dancer and a spinner, involved her dancers in the effort, creating hats and scarves for both veterans and homeless children. Scarves for vets or children, as well as tiny hats for premature babies, may be dropped off.
My Place Jewell
132-B Wyatt Drive
Knit for Kids
Dean Lively, a retired teacher, learned to crochet in 1999 and, since 2000, he has made over 925 children’s sweaters for World Vision’s Knit for Kids program, based in Pennsylvania. In 2005, he was thrilled to discover a photo of four children in Russia wearing sweaters he had donated on one of the organization’s brochures. The knitted and crocheted items donated through Knit for Kids are sent to children in need in Central and South America, Asia, Africa, and the United States. Over half a million children have received donations from crafters since the program began in 1996.
Another national program, Knitted Knockers, asks crafters to create soft, natural prosthetics for women who have undergone mastectomies. The organization sends out over 1,000 knitted (and crocheted) knockers each month from their headquarters, working with more than 100 medical centers across the country, but many knitters take their donations directly to local cancer centers. Lynn Fletcher, director of Memorial Medical Center Cancer Center, says, “They’re a great option for someone who doesn’t want to have reconstructive surgery or have a natural look while they’re going through the surgery. We’d love to have them donated directly to our center and we also accept items such as gloves, hats, and shawls for our patients going through treatment because they tend to be cold.”
Memorial Cancer Center:
Lynn Fletcher, 575-556-6525
Socks for Soldiers
Soldiers can feel your support all day when wearing knitted socks created by the 501(c)3 non-profit organization Socks for Soldiers under the leadership of president and founder Kim “Sarge” Opperman. Kim wanted the perfect yarn for soldier’s socks, so she created a custom-made yarn dyed in military colors, which she sells to her knitters at wholesale prices. She says, “For 12 years, I have sold and given away, for those on limited income, enough yarn for over 500,000 pairs of socks.” One Facebook comment among many supporting the group says, “Kim and her army of volunteers are great. She sent me a pair of super warm socks when I was in Afghanistan during the winter. Great organization and I still love my socks.”
Nancy Kimble & Carol Witham
Nancy Kimble, who moved to Las Cruces two years ago from Michigan, created many knitted hats that her daughter delivered to South America as part of a medical mission. Currently, she knits scarves and socks that she takes to Community of Hope to help the homeless. She says, “I made 10 scarves last year and some socks. At Community of Hope, they’re always extremely grateful for anything.”
Carol Witham was involved with several charitable knitting projects when she lived in Maine, including making dozens of hats for cancer patients and the NICU unit. Most recently, she created baby hats for the American Heart Association’s Little Hats, Big Hearts program, which collects knitted and crocheted red baby hats to distribute each February through partner hospitals around the country, packaged with heart health information for the families of new babies.