Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Project Idea - from Karen Bastille

Warm Up America! (WUA!) is an organization made up of volunteers who create handmade afghan blankets, clothing and accessories to help those in need. These items provide warmth and comfort to people who have lost their homes, fled abusive relations, or are being cared for in hospices, shelters, hospitals, and nursing home.

Evie Rosen, a former yarn retailer and nationally known knitting teacher who resides in Wausau, Wisconsin, came up with the idea for Warm Up America! because she wanted to do something to help the homeless. Her simple concept of asking customers, friends and the community to knit and crochet 7″ X 9″ sections that would be joined into afghans grew into a nationwide program that has produced more than 250,000 afghans. These afghans have been donated to victims of natural disasters, battered women’s shelters, the homeless, and others in need.

By 1995, the program was an overwhelming success and Evie turned to the Craft Yarn Council of America, a non-profit association of yarn companies and publishers, for assistance. Warm Up America! soon became a major national, grassroots program. In 2002, Warm Up America! was incorporated as a 501C3 tax exempt, charitable organization.

Today, WUA! includes countless volunteers across the country. Thousands and thousands of knitted and crocheted afghans and accessories are distributed to various charities each year.

How it works…
Volunteers donate their time to crochet and knit a 7″ X 9″ rectangle (or more). Sections are either joined by individuals or groups in a community and donated locally or sent to Foundation headquarters for joining and distribution.

The beauty of so many different participants is that a WUA! afghan resembles a patchwork quilt of many colors and textures, just as the participants and recipients represent the varied faces of America.

Collection of Completed Sections and Assembly of Afghan Blankets Volunteers are encouraged to work with friends, co-workers and family members to complete an afghan and donate it in their community. However, when that is not possible, the Foundation’s office serves as a collection point both for individual sections and for completed afghans.

Distribution of Afghan Blankets
The Foundation maintains a request list of charitable agencies, which provide services to homeless, battered women’s shelters and people in need. As afghan blankets are received at the Foundation, they are shipped to the agency on the top of the list. Contact is maintained with the agencies on the Foundation’s database before and after shipping the afghans.

Who receives the afghans?
WUA! afghans are distributed to individuals and families in need through community service organizations as well as through chapters of national organizations such as the American Red Cross. Sponsors of WUA! in communities around the country are encouraged to donate completed afghans within their own community in the true spirit of “neighbor helping neighbor.” Agencies to which the Foundation has donated afghans include:

Women’s shelters
Nursing homes
Children’s hospitals
Hospitals and hospices
Daycare centers
Veterans’ homes
AIDS facilities
Homeless shelters
American Red Cross chapters

Visit the Warm Up America website to find patterns for knit and crochet squares You’ll also find a great page on how to involve kids in the Warm Up America project.

Please take a look!