Warm Up America! (WUA) was the brainchild of Evie Rosen, who for more than 30 years owned a yarn shop in Wausau, Wisconsin. She started knitting afghans for shelters in 1990. Frustrated by the great need for blankets and her inability to knit large quantities fast enough, she came up with the idea of dividing up the process. She approached customers and friends and asked them to stitch 7”x9” sections and then asked others to sew them together. Everyone pitched in by knitting and crocheting sections and then joining them together to complete a colorful patchwork afghan. After a story about Evie’s efforts appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the program just took off.
Why afghans, you ask? Evie always said, “There are basic needs that we all share and keeping warm is one of them — whether it’s for someone in a shelter in Wisconsin, a mother and child in battered women’s home in Texas, or an older adult in an assisted living center in Georgia.” Evie also realized early on that a gift of something handmade brings special warmth and love to someone in need.
When Evie’s shop overflowed, people started dropping off donations at her home. It got to the point that she couldn’t even open her back door. She then approached the Craft Yarn Council and asked for help to expand the program nationally. The Council’s office became the collection and distribution point for WUA. In the early 2000's, the Council officially incorporated the program as a 501C3 charitable foundation.
The Council has always tried to maintain the spirit of Evie’s dream, which is of “Neighbors helping neighbors.” Though the Council receives and joins individual sections, then ships thousands of completed afghans annually, it also encourages individuals and groups to complete and donate afghans in their own communities.
Throughout its history, Warm Up America! has called on its volunteers to assist in special campaigns. Whether it’s to provide comfort and warmth for Katrina families or those devastated by fire, WUA volunteers answered the call.
The current “call to action” is to provide baby blankets for Parkland Memorial Hospital, located in Dallas, Texas. Parkland is Dallas County’s public hospital, which serves families of modest means and delivers thousands of babies every year. The Child Life Specialists at the hospital approached Warm Up America! with a wish to wrap every baby born at Parkland in a beautiful crocheted or knitted blanket. After visiting with the families of newborns at the hospital and seeing how appreciative the mothers were of the handmade gifts, this is a challenge WUA could not refuse.
And they need our help! Because of this special request to provide as many baby blankets as quickly as possible, WUA is asking volunteers to contribute finished blankets, instead of the usual individual 7”x9” sections. That doesn’t mean you can’t work with friends and complete individual sections, though! The organization is asking that you join the individual sections into a finished baby blanket to send in to WUA.
Parkland nurses suggest a 40”x40” blanket, but anything in that size range would be terrific. Make sure to use yarn that’s washable and dryable. (Please note: Warm Up America! is only accepting crocheted and knitted afghans.) The hospital and social service agencies WUA serve are not staffed to accept individual donations, so the Foundation collects the afghans and ships them in bulk.
Mail your baby blanket to:
Warm Up America! Foundation
c/o Parkland Babies
3740 N. Josey Lane, Suite 102
Carrollton, TX 75007
For more details about Warm Up America!, current needs, suggested knit and crochet patterns, joining tips, and volunteer stories, check out their website www.warmupamerica.org or visit www.Facebook.com/warmupamerica.
Don’t forget to take a photo of your blanket and email me at email@example.com. Tell me about your blanket and hope for the baby that receives it. We’ll post info on our social sites in the upcoming months and in the Summer 2015 issue of Craft Ideas. If you’re in need of inspiration, check out the crocheted “Rows of Bow” Baby Blanket by Terry Day on page 81 in this issue.
If you know of an organization that is promoting creative, crafty call-outs, or one that needs our readers’ help, please let us know. Happy (and meaningful) crafting!