WARM UP AMERICA Covers Country with Compassion

One way I’m celebrating America’s 2017 Independence Day is by recognizing the work of Warm Up America and countless other groups of people in the United States who work quietly and joyfully to touch the lives of fellow Americans. I became involved with Warm Up America (WUA) in 1995 when I spotted the word crochet on a flyer posted at the fabric store in my Minot, North Dakota, neighborhood. The notice invited volunteers to crochet or knit 7X9 inch sections and send them to WUA founder Evie Rosen in Wisconsin. Her team would then arrange donations into patchwork afghans and donate them to homeless shelters. A few years later, when WUA was receiving more donated pieces than they could keep up with, stitchers were encouraged to work locally to complete whole afghans and give them to neighbors in need.

Warm Up America is a 501C3 now located in Carrollton, Texas, that continues to pass handmade afghans out to disaster victims, homeless people, newborn babies, and underprivileged children. Volunteers are also called upon to knit or crochet hats, scarves, gloves, and friendship/prayer shawls  to be given with love to folks from sea to shining sea. Sometimes the yarn creations have traveled across oceans to bring a smile to a child.

How I’ve been participating:

    • Crocheting left-over yarn into 7X9 inch pieces and sending them to WUA.
    • Organizing a group of stitchers in our Tiffin, Ohio, church to create afghans for nearby folks (donated to Salvation Army for Christmas giveaways, provided afghans for victims of a 2002 tornado in our town).

Half of us with the fruits of a year’s labor ready to be given away.

      • Crocheting hats for WUA to give to students in Texas and for our St. Clairsville, Ohio, church’s Bountiful Backpacks Ministry to give to elementary students.
      • Teaching others ,including some awesome kids,  to crochet. (One of the boys took to it the fastest and made LOTS of “patches” for our WUA afghan.)

Had to snap a photo of this inter-generational group of friends while they stitched in my living room.

      • Crocheting 7X63 inch strips to drop off at the Ohio Valley Mall’s Pat Catan Arts and Crafts store during their WUA campaign. (Pat Catan’s even makes donated yarn available for stitchers to pick up free of charge.)
      • Sent one of my afghans to WUA for an Eastern Kentucky child’s new bed.

How I spent my Summer of 2016:

When WUA asked stitchers in all 50 states to design a section to be included in their “Stitch Your State” promotional afghan, I created sections to represent Ohio and several other states. When entries were lacking for some states at the end of the contest, I kept on researching, designing and crocheting sections – AND LOVING IT!

 Inspired by a billboard, I created the classic toy made in Ohio and “wrote” a script Ohio with Ohio State’s marching band in mind.

Using a photo of the monument on the Geographical Center of North America in Rugby, North Dakota, I designed a section for the sunny state I lived in for four years.

I discovered a cross stitch pattern of South Dakota’s Mount Rushmore and adapted it to crochet. (This one didn’t make the afghan, so it will be used elsewhere by WUA.)

A block of cheese to represent Wisconsin.

The New River Gorge Bridge spanning the mountains of West Virginia.

Another cross stitch pattern in crochet. (Someone else had the same idea.)

Honored to be able to contribute this one for Pennsylvania.

Our smallest state has the longest official name!

Alabama’s state flag.

A very successful advertising campaign!

After winning entries were selected, a WUA volunteer pieced the afghan together. I was thrilled to see eight of my designs in the finished project and to know that others I sent will be used to bless fellow Americans.

As I look at the afghan, it reminds me of the union of our 50 states, each a little different, with a variety of landscapes, industries, cultural backgrounds, and histories, but united nonetheless. Without denying that America has problems and faults that need to be addressed, I still love and appreciate my home. And I still have optimism when I turn my attention to the kindness and compassion that still exists. It seems that when an act of mercy or generosity is publicized these days, it is thought to be unusual. Perhaps that is because most of the loving actions of Americans are done in quiet humility as they see a need and respond, not wanting recognition or fanfare.

My creative efforts contributed a few pieces of the puzzle for the WUA Stitch Your State Afghan, as Warm Up America is one piece of the puzzle in the effort to unite people through compassion. Kind actions speak louder than words. America can be strengthened and united as each of her citizens uses whatever gifts s/he has been given to teach or help another. Sometimes we never meet the recipient. But there is joy in the giving.

(I would be happy to teach you how to crochet a Warm Up America section if you live nearby.)

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10

Links to the groups and campaigns referred to:   Read about their work, find instructions to knit, crochet, or support in other ways. Operates during the school year to provide weekend food to hungry kids. and  This is for 2017, but I’m sure there will be a 2018 campaign as well.



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Out With the Old?

I don’t like to throw things away.  At Christmas, we received a new Coffeemaker and an Electric Skillet.  While the old ones look old and barely work, I didn’t feel right pitching them in the garbage. So with two items that someone else might squeeze some use out of, I began planning this year’s garage sale!  Over the years, my husband has been amazed to watch people purchase and carry off what he would have thrown away.  And the end of each sale, he helps me discard or donate the left-overs rather than store them for the next time.  I appreciate that help.

Preparing for a garage sale entails countless hours of work and innumerable decisions about what to keep, sell, donate, recycle or throw away.  It means revisiting possessions that I held onto before and determining whether this is the time for them to go.  Clothes are easy to deal with. If I don’t wear them and they’re not stained or worn through, they get donated.  A few get kept even though I don’t wear them – a formal dress that I made for a fancy event, shirts with original designs by son Kyle, and a couple of pep band shirts from high school and alumni band days  (it may be time for them to go).

When we run out of hangers, it’s time to purge!

Books are hard to part with, but new ones are coming in, so some have to go the sale box.  I will scrounge up a few more kitchen items to accompany the outgoing skillet and coffeemaker.  One day I’ll feel motivated to work through my “craft closet” again to throw away a few things, designate some to the sale, and reorganize the rest.  (The “craft closet” has been a prerequisite of every house we have purchased.)

Closets and drawers might hold a few treasures that will catch someone’s eye.  Will I really ever exercise on that Denise Austin foam step again?  Is it worth keeping sofa pillows that I’ve already replaced?  What about music CDs, cookbooks, and jewelry?  An upcoming garage sale inspires a pretty major purge that I feel is necessary when one lives in the same house for more than a decade.

In 2015, during the season of Lent, I came across 40 Bags in 40 Days on Facebook.  40 Bags is a challenge to declutter one area of your house each day until Easter and to bag or box up items to be removed from your home to the curb, to someone else who can use them, or to a garage sale.  I enjoyed my first 40 Days journey and used it to work through not only my stuff, but many of our sons’ possessions that have remained in our house.  Sifting through the memory-laden projects, toys, and memorabilia begins a sentimental journey that rivals last week’s peek into Eric’s baby book (See Three Good Men – Part 3).  It seems more difficult for me to part with 4-H projects and works of art than it is for them to do so.

One box of treasures leads to another, and I may even find myself looking through my own keepsakes from school, our wedding, and my days as Sunday School director.  I won’t find any garage sale items of course, but there may be some papers or seashells that can go into a recycling or garbage bag.  It wasn’t that long ago that I disposed of the unopened can of Tab that we brought back from our Mexican Honeymoon in 1984!

This year, I’m doing a more casual 40 Bags type clean out – not charting every accomplishment, but seeking to part with Christmas decorations, extra towels –  whatever is taking up space and unlikely to be used.  Not even my old crocheted projects are safe.  Eric and Kyle don’t need to worry about the penguin and giraffe pillows that I made for them when they were kids. But yesterday I became aware that a favorite organization, Warm Up America (more on them another day) is collecting handmade afghans for kids in Eastern Kentucky who will soon be receiving newly built beds.  With no time to crochet one by the deadline and my heart aching for kids in Appalachia that sleep on cold, hard floors, I prayed.  Jesus, the lover of children, reminded me that stashed in closets and under our beds were four of my crocheted blankets.  Certainly I could part with one of them and take this opportunity to bless a child.  The Red, White, and Blue afghan was stitched twenty five years ago during Operation Desert Storm, but had only been displayed – perfect.  Before I could change my mind, I washed and dried it, put it in a box, and shipped it off to Warm Up America.

It still looks new!

Now lets see…what’s next?

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