Handmade: Sit ‘n Knit warms homeless with stitches
Three years ago, after teaching herself to knit with the help of books from the library, a couple learn-to-knit kits and DVDs, Shalynne Barr of White Lake felt she had what it took to help fill a void – “Warming up the homeless community stitch by stitch” with handmade hats, mittens and scarves.
But in order to make a real difference, she would need others to join her mission, so, with the encouragement of her husband, Terrence, she started Sit ‘n Knit, a 501 (c) 3 organization that provides much-needed winter accessories to needy individuals in Michigan.
Today, Barr, who earned an MBA in entrepreneurship from Jones University as part of an online study program, has 60 volunteers, including an 83-year-old living in a nursing home and incarcerated men, who are busy year-round knitting and crocheting items to donate to Sit ‘n Knit, which celebrated its third anniversary last week. Since starting the program, Barr, 44, has gone a step further by teaching herself to crochet, because there are crocheters among the volunteers.
Tax-deductible donations in the form of yarn, knitting/crocheting supplies, monetary gifts, and finished projects come from all across Michigan and as far away as California to assist the program in its efforts.
Donated yarn and supplies are loaned out to volunteer knitters and crocheters. Barr says, “We have them sign a promissory note.” Basically, the written message informs volunteers that the yarn and/or supplies they receive are on loan through Sit ‘n Knit, and that it’s not for their personal use, but “to further the intentions of the program,” with knitted/crocheted items returned in a timely manner.
Once the finished items are sent to Sit ‘n Knit, an inventory list is made, and a tag that reads, “This gift has been handmade for you,” is attached to each. The items, which sometimes include donations for babies, are then distributed to local agencies that help homeless individuals. To date, they’ve donated more than 1,200 items.
Barr, who operates Sit ‘n Knit out of her home office, says, “We donate (the items) to other 501 organizations, and we entrust them to distribute them properly. We have a giving season, from Thanksgiving to Valentines Day.” Past recipients include Grace Centers of Hope, Hope Hospitality and Warming Center, both in Pontiac, and Detroit Rescue Mission in Detroit.
There are five board members who help with activities, namely Forrest Ward, Tracy Ward (both of Commerce), Kathy Perrone (Highland), secretary Tina Wolf (White Lake), and treasurer Sherita Smith (Detroit).
Along with finding a church in Detroit to partner with as a place from which to operate the program, Barr hopes their next phase will be teaching at-risk youth how to knit and crochet as a way “to help promote a sense of self within today’s youth.” However, she adds, “We need funding for this program and/or a partner with a reputable organization that currently works with youth (in order) to teach them these type of skills.”
Once a year, the organization holds a benefit, “Breakfast with Sit ‘n Knit,” that helps raise funds for their giving season. “The past two years, it’s been held at the Detroit Marriott. We have a speaker, raffle and door prizes,” says Barr. She recently received about 50 skeins of yarn from a woman who attended their last breakfast.
If you’d like to make a monetary donation to Sit ‘n Knit, just visit sitnknit.org and click “donate.” (There, you’ll also find a lot of knitting and crocheting patterns.) Yarn and knitting/crocheting supplies should be mailed to: Sit ‘n Knit, P.O. Box 1034, Highland, MI 48357.
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or email@example.com or facebook.com/detroitnewshandmade.
Contact Sit ‘n Knit at (248) 462-5244, sitnknit.org, or on Facebook. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.