Among the many local non-profits that see a need for warm, handmade items this time of year is Rescue Ministries, which operates several programs to feed, clothe and shelter people who cannot cover their basic needs.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Andrea Hatfield, donor relations officer for the Rescue Mission, and Sharon Gerig, Life House coordinator for the Rescue Mission, about the organizations needs.
Not only do these women see a need now among the residents of the three shelters that Rescue Ministries operates, but they see the need every day of the year. Sure the men, women and children who come to the shelters are in need of the basics, but the homeless who dont or wont seek shelter are also in need.
And then there are the families and individuals who arrive at the mission, 301 W. Superior St., for one of the three meals the mission serves every day: Many times they too are in need of a few extra blankets, hats, gloves or other items.
Hatfield and Gerig agreed that it would be wonderful to be the recipients of handcrafted items that local crafters may want to contribute to help keep the homeless and needy of Fort Wayne warm through the coming cold winter days.
We go through hats and gloves very quickly, said Gerig, who dispenses those items as they are needed.
Blankets are used in the dorm area of the mission, and often, when the men leave there, they take the blanket with them, she said. So, there is a near-constant need for blankets there.
In addition, the mission once had a man looking for assistance with a heating bill and, while the mission does not offer that sort of help, Gerig was able to offer the man blankets for each member of his family to help them keep warm.
The mission has the greatest need for mens clothing, medium size and larger, but there is some need for any size, including from babies up to adult male, she said.
When it comes to blankets, the only requirement is that the material used to make them (be that knit, crochet, no-sew or quilted) be a thick, dense fabric and that the blankets be the size of a twin bed. This is the perfect size to be rolled up and placed into a bag.
A couple of events coming up will give area crafters opportunities to help.
The local homeless count is planned for January. Homeless people contacted during the count will receive backpacks with items including hats and gloves.
A more organized effort, the Great Fort Wayne Cover Up, founded by Fort Wayne resident Melissa Jaegle, has been handed over to the mission. Hatfield is working with a committee of downtown business people to run the program this year.
She trademarked it and had a passion for it, and she was ready to pass the baton, Hatfield said of Jaegle. So I can take it and grow with it.
The hope is to collect new blankets – including handmade blankets – from mid-January until mid-February. In the future, Hatfield is hoping to expand the Cover Up program.
With such a huge need by the homeless and the working-class poor, the mission will take any items it can get (handmade or not), especially as the colder months approach. Gerig estimated the Rescue Mission gave out about 100 blankets during December through February last winter.