The great yarn donation of 2009

Did you get a chance to watch or listen to Obama’s inaugural speech yesterday? A few of us here in the office tuned in online. The quote that really struck home was, “The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart – not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.”

That made us think about what we could to help our local community here in the Portland area. As you may have noticed, some of our yarn colors are on clearance right now and are being discontinued to make room for new colors. Most of our yarn lives in our warehouse in Ohio, but we do keep skeins of every color and weight on hand in our Vancouver headquarters for swatching, photography, and design purposes. In the past, those discontinued balls have gone in a freebie box for our staff, but this year we’ve decided to support a couple of really worthy local non-profits instead. It was hard for some of us to say goodbye to those gorgeous, free skeins of Main Line, Cornflower Swish DK, and Lost Boys Imagination, but we knew in our hearts they would be going to a worthy home instead of the bottom of our stashes.

Yesterday afternoon, I loaded 75 POUNDS of yarn (that’s only half of it pictured above) into my poor, old 1984 Volvo station wagon, and the yarn and I headed for Portland.

It was an unseasonably sunny day, so we rolled down the windows as we whizzed down I-205 until we had to make a sudden stop. The yarn started bouncing around in the back seat, and I was scared I was about to lose some of my precious cargo, so we rolled the windows back up.

Our first stop was Friends of the Children, a non-profit that provides Portland’s most at-risk youth with mentors to give each child a positive, supportive adult in his or her life and break the cycle of poverty and abuse.

They teach knitting (and quilting!) classes to at-risk kids, and the mentors sometimes knit with the children they mentor too. There’s going to be lots of knitting going on there now that they have 35 lbs. of yarn to knit up. This is Kendra, their Development Associate, with 3 of the 5 boxes that found a home at Friends of the Children.

On our way to the next stop, the remaining 30 lbs. of yarn and I stopped at Starbucks. Normally, we prefer Stumptown, but Starbucks lured us in with their call for National Service. Just pledge 5 volunteer hours, and they’ll “salute you with a free Tall brewed coffee.”

We made the pledge and got our caffeine fix. I still have 4 more hours to go.

We headed across one of Portland’s many bridges, and found a parking spot downtown in front of the YWCA where their Development Manager, Shannon, helped me unload the last 4 boxes of yarn.

The YWCA will give the yarn to elderly folks who already knit in their home-based case management programs for seniors and give some to women staying in their domestic violence shelters who find knitting therapeutic.

We know that boxes of yarn aren’t going to save the world. But if knitting a scarf or hat out of Knit Picks yarn is going to make a kid and his mentor feel closer, give another child a feeling of accomplishment, help an older person feel remembered or useful, or comfort and soothe a woman in the middle of a frightening, and often dangerous, transition, then we’re glad that we were able to play a small part in that by supporting these great charities. Even if it means less Coney Island Felici for us. <