10 Charities Looking for Yarn Crafters

There are people who love to knit and crochet, but produce more sweaters, blankets, caps, and mittens than their friends and families can use. Yarn crafters are a generous group: in 2000, images of penguins wearing sweaters to help them recover from an oil spill prompted knitters all over the world to donate handmade penguin sweaters to the Penguin Foundation. They received many times more sweaters than they wanted, and most of the tiny sweaters were sold to raise funds.

There are other folks who could benefit from some lovingly-crafted woolens for one reason or another. Organizations have arisen to connect generous and productive crafters with those who could really use their output. Maybe you would like to knit for one of them.

1. Warm Up America!

The Bees via Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Warm Up America! was founded in 1991 by Evie Rosen of Wisconsin, who knitted afghans for homeless shelters. She knew she could get more people involved if they weren’t expected to make an entire blanket, but instead could donate squares that could be combined with other people’s squares to make blankets. The organization has been doing that ever since. They accept individual 7” x 9” squares, as well as finished blankets and clothing items. The items are distributed to homeless shelters and hospital nurseries, as well as other charities as the need arises.

2. Bundles of Love

Bundles of Love via Facebook

Bundles of Love is a nonprofit organization that provides basic supplies for newborns in Minnesota, including bedding, clothing, and basic care items. They distribute these items to families in need through a network of 60 hospitals and organizations in the state. Bundles of Love accepts donations of knitted and sewn clothing and bedding, and they even provide patterns. But they also need monetary donations, sewing supplies, and other baby supplies for the bundles. Or you can volunteer your time if you're in Minnesota..

3. Wildlife Victoria

Wildlife Victoria via Facebook

Wildlife Victoria is committed to helping wild animals in Australia. One of their projects is providing foster care for orphaned baby kangaroos, or joeys. Among the items they need knitted or sewn are pouches and pouch liners to substitute for kangaroo mothers. Other orphaned marsupials benefit from pouches, too: wallabies, wombats, possums, and koalas can use them to stay warm and secure. The instructions for making wool pouches in several sizes are here

4. Afghans for Afghans

NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Afghans for Afghans is a volunteer project that connects yarn crafters with the people of Afghanistan. Volunteers do make the blankets we call afghans, but also wool sweaters, socks, hats, baby clothes, and other items. The 2014 and 2015 campaigns were a huge success. A new campaign is set to begin sometime in 2016. Check the community forum for updates.

5. Binky Patrol

Screenshot via YouTube

Binky Patrol is an organization that provides donated handmade security blankets to children in need. These include kids battling HIV, drug abuse, child abuse, or chronic and terminal illnesses. Volunteers can make blankets in a variety of ways: knitting, crocheting, quilting, or just sewing up a nice piece of fleece fabric. “Binkys” range from two-feet-square for preemies up to twin bed size, and all sizes in between. Learn more about volunteering and making blankets in this video by founder Susan Finch.

6. Knots of Love

Christine M. Fabiani learned to make crocheted caps, and made them for her sons. A friend remarked how she would have loved to have one when she underwent chemotherapy and lost her hair. Chemo patients are often cold in clinics and hospitals, and wigs aren’t comfortable all the time. Fabiani responded by founding Knots of Love, which provides cancer patients with handmade caps. Volunteers make knitted or crocheted caps that are sent to treatment centers all over. Tens of thousands of caps have been distributed since 2007. Instructions for donating caps are here.

7. The Baby Bird Nest Craft-Along

A San Rafael, California wildlife rehabilitation center noticed that baby birds were sometimes bruised and injured in the makeshift bowls they were using for nests. WildCare sent out a call for a softer alternative, and the yarn craft community responded by knitting soft and cozy nests for orphaned baby birds to snuggle. The response was so enthusiastic that WildCare shared the nests with other bird shelters. Now organized by WildCare, the Baby Bird Nest Campaign has received over 3500 knitted and crocheted nests from volunteers from all over. A new campaign for 2016 is expected to begin in the spring. If you want to participate, you can register for email updates. See pictures from the campaign here

8. Knitted Knockers

Knitted Knockers via Facebook.

Knitted Knockers is a nonprofit that provides handmade prosthetic breasts to mastectomy patients. They organize knitters to make knitted cotton breasts that are lightweight, comfortable, and—most importantly—free to those who need them. Since 2010, they have received and distributed over 5000 knitted breasts.

9. The Mother Bear Project

Holly Pierce via Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Mother Bear Project sends knitted teddy bears to children in emerging nations who are affected by HIV and AIDS. They’ve already distributed more than 100,000 bears to children in 26 different countries. They welcome all knitters to make bears using the same pattern. The organization adds a red heart and a tag with the knitter's name before distributing the bears.

10. Leggings For Life

Leggings for Life via Facebook.

Injured and disabled animals come in all sizes, shapes, and species, and some of them need custom-made clothing and cushions for their special needs. For example, the cat pictured here, named Willow, gets around by dragging her deformed back legs. A set of custom-knitted leggings helps her slide along easier with less skin irritation. Her leggings were made by a volunteer with Leggings for Life. The organization takes requests from veterinarians and pet owners, and matches them up with volunteer yarn crafters who may live near them. This creates an ongoing partnership, since each pet has different dimensions and the leggings will wear out and need to be replaced.

Even if you’re not a crafter, you can help any of these organizations with a monetary contribution. Some are also seeking donations of supplies or corporate sponsorship.

See also: 9 More Charities Looking for Yarn Crafters.

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Ben Leuner, AMC
You Can Cook (Food) With Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in the Original Breaking Bad RV
Ben Leuner, AMC
Ben Leuner, AMC

A new contest is giving Breaking Bad fans the chance to cook a meal with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. A new charity fundraising campaign is sending one lucky fan and a friend out to Los Angeles to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Breaking Bad’s premiere with the stars themselves—Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, and that beat-up RV.

“That’s right, the real Walter White and Jesse Pinkman will join you in The Krystal Ship to whip up some delicious food, take tons of pictures, and bond over the most addicting show ever made,” the contest’s page on the charity fundraising site Omaze trumpets.

All you have to do to throw your (porkpie) hat in the ring is break out your wallet and donate to a good cause. Every dollar you donate to the contest through Omaze is basically a raffle ticket. And the more you donate, the better your odds are of winning. Each dollar donated equals 10 entries, so if you donate $10, you have 100 chances, if you donate $25, 250 chances, etc. At higher donation levels, you’ll also get guaranteed swag, including T-shirts, signed set photos by Cranston and Paul, props and scripts from the show, and more.

Technically, you can enter without donating, but don’t be a jerk—it’s for the kids. The proceeds from the contest will go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Kind Campaign, an anti-bullying charity.

The contest winner will be announced around September 12, and the big event will take place on September 15.

Donate to win here. The contest ends at 11:59 p.m. PT on August 30.

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Kars4Kids, YouTube
The Cruel (But Effective) Agony of the Kars4Kids Jingle
Kars4Kids, YouTube
Kars4Kids, YouTube

It can happen suddenly and without warning. Driving in your vehicle, a commercial break comes on. In addition to the standard pleas to use a specific laundry detergent or contemplate debt consolidation, the voice of a preadolescent, out-of-tune child materializes. Your grip on the steering wheel gets tighter. The child begins to warble:

1-877-Kars-4-Kids, K-A-R-S Kars for Kids, 1-EIGHT-SEVEN-SEVEN-Kars-4-Kids, Donate Your Car Today …

An adult breaks in to repeat the lyrics. The two begin to sing in unison:

1-877-Kars-4-Kids, K-A-R-S Kaaaaars for Kiiiids…Donate Your Car Today!

In roughly a minute, it’s over. You go on with your day. But the song’s repetitive melody sticks to your brain like sap. You hear it when preparing dinner. While brushing your teeth. As you put your head on the pillow. When it's finally worked its way out of your brain and you've started to forget, it reappears.

The song is engineered to be obnoxious. And its producers wouldn't have it any other way.

 
 

Since 1999, an untold number of Americans have found themselves reduced to mewling heaps of distress following exposure to the Kars4Kids jingle. The 501(c) nonprofit organization based in Lakewood, New Jersey, spends up to $17 million annually making sure this earwig of a commercial is played across the country. While the purpose is not expressly to annoy you, the fact that the song is irritating is what makes it memorable. And successful. And more than a little controversial.

Kars4Kids began in 1995 as a way to capitalize on the trend of automotive owners donating their unwanted cars in exchange for a tax deduction. Owners who donate their vehicles are able to get an IRS write-off—though typically for only a percentage of the current value—if they declare it a charitable donation. Kars4Kids arranges for the vehicle to be towed away and sold at auction, with proceeds going to afterschool and summer programs for students.

According to the organization, business was slow until one of their volunteers had an idea to craft a commercial song. The melody was purchased from a singer and songwriter named Country Yossi, and Kars4Kids enlisted a child to perform it at an in-house recording session. It debuted in the New York market in 1999, and spread like the plague to the West Coast by 2005 and nationally by 2007.

Aside from Yossi, however, the company has repeatedly declined to identify anyone else involved with creating the song. The reason? Death threats. The tune has apparently enraged people to the point of contemplating murder. Speaking to SanFranciscoGate.com in 2016, music cognition expert Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis said that the combination of repetitive structure and the overly simplistic message was engineered to grate the listener's nerves.

“This simple melodic line is also probably responsible for some of the annoyance,” she said. “These kinds of three and four note lines are often the ones specially crafted for kids learning how to play instruments ... It probably conjures up associations of painful practice sessions.”

 
 

The line between irritating and memorable is often blurry. Kars4Kids has repeatedly pointed to the song as being effective in driving telephone traffic to their number. When they debuted a television commercial in 2014—complete with lip-syncing kids who subsequently got bullied for their participation in the spot—donations went up by 50 percent. To date, the company has received 450,000 cars. In 2017, contributions totaled $39 million.

Surprisingly, people have reserved animosity for something other than the commercial. In 2017, Minnesota's attorney general chastised Kars4Kids for not making it clear to donors that many of the children who benefit from the fundraising are located in the northeast: Kids in Minnesota received just $12,000 of the $3 million raised in that state. Other times, the organization has been criticized for leaving information out of their solicitations. In 2009, both Pennsylvania and Oregon fined the charity for failing to disclose a religious affiliation. (Most of the funds raised go toward Orthodox Jewish groups.) Oregon’s Department of Justice said that Kars4Kids needed to disclose such information in its ads.

Those speed bumps aside, the jingle shows no signs of leaving the airwaves any time soon. Rather than run from the negative response, Kars4Kids marinates in it, sharing hateful diatribes from others on social media.

“Newer people join the [media] team and when they are first exposed to the level of hatred on Twitter they'll be like, 'Are you sure you think this is a good idea that we should keep on playing this?,'" Wendy Kirwan, Kars4Kids’s director of public relations, told Billboard in 2016. “And we've looked at that time and again, and we've come to the conclusion that it's definitely worth sticking with.”

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