Monday, May 24, 2010

Welcome to Hats for the Homeless 2010!

We are excited to officially open the doors for Hats for the Homeless 2010 and invite you to participate with us! Last year's effort was so JOY-filled that we can only imagine it growing this year. Please see the links at the top of this page (under the photos of the amazing hats from last year!) for complete information and check back often, as we'll be updating the pages with more links and details as we go along.

It seems strange to think about needing wool hats when today was a record-breaking 95 degrees in the Twin Cities area, but we know Mother Nature will blow her frosty air on us once again in a few months. Are you a knitter looking for a small take-along project for your summer vacation? Tired of working on those big sweaters and seeking a quick project to fill the gaps? How about knitting a Hat for the Homeless for this coming winter? Hats are fast, hats are easy and HATS ARE NEEDED.

Thank you, in advance!

Christmas Eve Joy Revisited

(This post was originally published at yogurt & granola, 2009.)

My friend Tracy from church just sent this story out over email and he gave me permission to share it here too. It's an insider's view of the preparations and celebrations that occurred at the Simpson Housing Shelter for Christmas Eve. Our Hats for the Homeless project was a part of this joy, but only a small part, as you'll see when you read his letter. So many other amazing pieces of the puzzle had to come together to make it all work and what a beautiful picture it made. I think of our homeless neighbors a lot these days since our temperatures are dangerously cold even in the middle of the day. Tracy's email signature is sticking in my head too:

"Everyone wants to help. The problem is that not so many want to get involved."

Let's make 2010 the year that we collectively get over the "getting involved" hurdle and help others whenever we can.

Christmas Eve at Simpson Housing Shelter, by Tracy Jones

Months before Christmas, the infectiously wonderful Barb Melom called me and exclaimed "We got Christmas Eve." Immediately, I knew that she meant that our small group of volunteers from First Universalist would be serving the Christmas Eve meal at Simpson Men's Shelter. The level of her excitement was reached only by my level of nervousness. We've served countless meals at the Shelter before, and all have been successful, but Christmas Eve is special. And I was afraid that my friends who live at the shelter would be sad because of it being Christmas, and I wouldn't be able to help them with their sadness. But it's Barb, so I decided to join in her jubilation.

Almost weekly she would call me. One family had decided to donate 100 steaks. Another promised to make her special au gratin potatoes. One lady was going to make pies. Another family, dozens of Christmas cookies. She called to say that she had snagged tablecloths from a church group. That we had new socks so that each guest was going to get a new pair of socks. And toothbrushes. And toothpaste. We had centerpieces for the tables. Another evening she breathlessly explained that we had enough food for an appetizer table. That she talked to a chef friend who explained how to cook the steaks. That this was going to be an event of a lifetime for the Shelter.

And it was.

Just like the song says, "the weather outside was frightful." The Shelter staff opened the doors early to that the men could warm up. When I arrived, they were watching a movie on the TV and sharing bags of chips that someone had donated. When I went back into the kitchen to start working, there is only one word that can describe the scene. Joy. Joy in the family with their 5- and 7-year old sons who were already setting the tables with placemats and red and green napkins. Joy in the men cooking the steaks. Joy in the people chopping the greens for the salad, and those washing the pots and pans. Joy in Barb as she directed this crew like a conductor with an orchestra. Joy. Joy to our world in South Minneapolis, were we came together with like ideals, with like love, and with like compassion. Joy.

A young mother with her two children and husband in tow gave out the hand made hats knit by the people at First Universalist and our greater community. Every person who wanted one got a new, beautiful hat. Joy. The guests feasted on appetizers of meatballs, chips, dips, crackers, cheese and sausages. Joy. They sat at their decorated tables and ate wonderful steaks, potatoes and salads. They had dozens of desserts to choose from and I'm sure some ate dozens of desserts. Joy. No sadness or melancholy. Just Joy.

I'm sure that the guests didn't expect the decorations, or that there would be children at the Christmas Eve dinner. I'm sure that they thought that they'd be forgotten on Christmas Eve, because it's a special night when most spend time with family and friends, not at a Shelter. But I'm also sure that now they know that they are our friends. That there isn't a place in the world where we would have rather been. That the children, sitting quietly, were fascinated with their stories. That we not only wanted to see the hat that they had chosen, but wanted a keepsake picture of them wearing their new hat. That they could talk forever about their own children because we wanted to know about them. And that we could sit quietly with them and explain that perhaps they didn't have dinner with their biological families but they were now part of our family, their logical family.

Cleaning the kitchen took a little longer than usual on Christmas Eve, the special night. Not because we were slower, but because we didn't want the night to end. The night that we were supposed to be anywhere else. The night of Joy.

In past years, I always like to walk to the Christmas Eve services at church, because I like how quiet the streets are on the special night. This year I didn't have time to go to the church's Christmas service, but I did get to walk home from the Simpson Men's Shelter. It was quiet. It was a silent night.

It was the most Holy night.



(This post was originally published at yogurt & granola, 2009.) 

Hats for the Homeless 2009
234 of the hats are pictured here, 50+ were already donated to the women's shelter and there were countless piles of homemade scarves, polar fleece caps and gloves...

Hats for the Homeless Program on the News!

(This post was originally published at yogurt & granola, 2009.)

50 Hats for Christmas Project Update

(This post was originally published at yogurt & granola, 2009.)

We have reached the initial goal of 50 Handknit Hats for Christmas for the Simpson Housing Shelter (that's 65 hats on the table there in this blurry cell phone photo...yes, sixty-five hats) and are so heartened by the generosity that is pouring in from all over. Thanks to our friends on Facebook, Twitter, Ravelry and fellow bloggers/loyal readers, we've received hats from all over Minnesota and as far away as Pennsylvania with Wisconsin and Illinois in between. These hats are multiplying like rabbits in their storage bags tucked in our dining rooms and it's truly a miracle to watch the stacks grow.


Rest assured, everyone, that ALL of these hats will find a chilly head to rest upon and more are still graciously being accepted. There are 46 beds in the shelter which was the inspiration for the original goal, but more people typically come for dinner each night. And then you figure in that there are different people who come to the shelter the next day, and the next day. And then there is the women's branch of the Simpson Housing Shelter that has 20 beds so women's hats are needed too. Not to mention the 9,000 people who are homeless in Minnesota each night... More hats are always needed.

The deadline to participate in this awesome project is December 5, details repeated below:

1. Knit a hat for a man--or a woman. Any weight yarn (wool yarn is recommended, Minnesota winters are COLD). Any pattern. Knit something that you would feel comfortable giving to a person in your life whom you love. Complicated or simple, it's totally up to you.

2. Mail your hat to:
50 Hats for Christmas
First Universalist Church
ATTN: Catherine/UU Stitchers
3400 Dupont Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55408 USA

Thank you for sharing your skill, time and love for our homeless neighbors!


(This post was originally published at yogurt & granola, 2009.) 

In just a week and a half since I first wrote about the 50 Hats for Christmas project, we have 13 completed hats and at least another dozen on the needles (both in our community and out in the world at-large). Well done, Knitters! I knew I could count on you.
Please keep them coming in! If we keep up this pace we'll meet our goal before Halloween but we're just going to keep on going with it. It's a delightful problem to have too many hats and will not be difficult to find other charitable organizations and homeless shelters to share the love!

50 Hats for Christmas

(This post was originally published at yogurt & granola, 2009.) 

Remember when I talked about knitting for charity more this year? So it begins. And true to form, it's not starting out small.

Well, each individual knitting item is small. (We're talking hats here.) But combined, the effort can be BIG.
My friend at church mentioned that it would be super cool to have handknit hats to bring to the Simpson Housing Shelter on Christmas Eve to give as gifts to the homeless folks there. Our church has a strong relationship with Simpson House so it's a logical connection. She wondered if I could get the knitters at church on it and get a bunch of hats made up.

My reply to her was: "Definitely. Great idea. I'm on it."

But then I thought about all of the knitters who are so interconnected online (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and decided that it would be pretty awesome to open it up to all of my knitting friends, and their friends, etc.

The Deets:

1. Knit a hat for a man. Any weight yarn.* Any pattern. Knit something that you would feel comfortable giving to a man in your life whom you love (husband/partner, dad, brother, friend, etc.). Complicated or simple, it's totally up to you.

2. Mail your hat to:
50 Hats for Christmas
First Universalist Church
ATTN: Catherine/UU Stitchers
3400 Dupont Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55408 USA

Deadline: Saturday, December 5, 2009

I'm putting this out here so early to give you all a chance to work it into your holiday knitting schedule and also to put a bee in your bonnet for the fall season when you may want to start working on something other than summer lace/socks (ahem, I can't be the only one?) and are thinking of winter woollies. Simple hats typically don't take very long to knit so it can be a very easy project to whip out. (You could do this hat or this hat or use this hat recipe or search this free knitting pattern site for ideas or check out Ravelry...)
The pattern for this "Turn a Square" hat is available on Brooklyn Tweed's blog here. (This is an AWESOME hat.)

*Remember: Minnesota winters are COLD. Being homeless in this state is a tragic thing (being homeless anywhere is a tragic thing) so having a warm hat to pull over your ears will go a long way towards keeping a person's spirits up and feet moving in the right direction. To that end, wool yarn is definitely recommended.

The goal is 50 hats for Christmas. Think we can do it?

Thanks, Knitters. I knew you'd agree. :)