Tuesday, August 26, 2014

charity giving

Every now and then I get an email wanting to send items to me for charity giving. I am not presently collecting anything but there are a lot of organizations who can use your beautiful work.

After my last post, I was asked where to send prayer cloths, so I decided to write a general post about charity giving. This is from MY perspective, of course, and opinions expressed are my own opinions. I've been crocheting for 34 years and have a lot of opinions on a lot of subjects. LOL

There are crafters out there who ask that we send various things for charity. One good place to look for these is Crochetville, which has a section for items needed for charity. Generally the small efforts are started by people like you and me. Most of the time these are legitimate efforts by people who care. But not ALL of them are.

Do your homework if you want to be sure your hard work goes where it will do the most good. Sometimes this is just having a convo back and forth or visiting a Facebook page to see if items are actually being donated and if the charity effort is still active. On Crochetville, you can see when the last post about the topic was made and ask questions.

If the organization is a national one that's been around a while (like Warm Up America for example), it is most likely legit. If it is on the IRS list for tax exempt it is likely legit though that is really only a matter of filling out a lot of paperwork. If the web site hasn't been updated in several years, I'm suspicious. This is sometimes just a fall-through-the-cracks thing if info remains the same through the years. It may also be that the coordinator is too busy actually working with donations to work on the web site. In any case, it's a red flag to check out.

Many of the large organizations have small sub groups, like Crochet for Cancer. These small group coordinators personally oversee things and can often tell you how your items are being used, personally or with a blog or Facebook posts that show distribution.

Can you always be sure a group is actually doing what it says it will? No. Not unless you are there watching them hand things out. But you can have a pretty good idea if you've done some work. I have gotten caught myself a few times by efforts that started off strong and then fell by the wayside, leaving the items you have donated in a box somewhere. Sometimes time passes, contacts leave, hospital policies change and life interferes. Organizations fold through no real fault of their own. As long as there is communication and responsible accounting, that's fine. A long time organization of which I was a part recently shut down after many years of service. This coordinator did it right. Everyone was kept informed and knew for the last year exactly how things would go. It was ended sadly but well.

Sometimes you can tell when a person does not seem to be excited about his or her work and will not follow through. Sometimes things take off too fast and the coordinator can't catch up. It becomes overwhelming and they drop out. Again, communication is key.

Some projects are time sensitive. When an event occurs in the news, crocheters and knitters want to help. Finding a legitimate way to do that can be difficult. Partnering with a well known organization is a good idea and can get things accomplished in a timely manner. When things take off, they are prepared through long experience in dealing with these types of situations. This is especially true of situations occurring in a country other than your own.

Getting back to prayer cloths or specifically pocket prayer cloths. If you google prayer cloths you will see a lot of information, some of which is misleading. Prayer cloths that you make and give to someone do not contain special healing properties. They are a reminder to that person that you care for them, have prayed for them, that God loves them and cares what happens to them. I like to make the ones with the cross on them as this is pretty much a universal Christian symbol and a good reminder to keep hope and faith alive in difficult situations. These are generally given to people of faith for which the cross will mean something.

You don't HAVE to put a cross on your prayer cloth. It can be a simple rectangle with no adornment or make it plain and attach a charm of some kind. You could make a heart or some other shape if that has special meaning to you or the recipient if all you want is something that lets them know you are thinking of them. Right now, however, I'm talking about prayer cloths made from a Christian perspective.

You will also note sites where prayer cloths are made of fabric and not crocheted or knitted, some are offered for free, some are sold. Some places say you are not to sell them. Like all things on the Internet if you search long enough you will find someone supporting your idea. I think selling cloths is a matter for you to decide. Not everyone can crochet or knit but they may like the look of these cloths and they can do their own praying for the person to whom they intend these to go. I do not sell my own prayer cloths. Any I make are freely given.

Where are prayer cloths needed? St. John's Lutheran Church includes a prayer cloth with the food packages given out to the needy from the food pantry. They can be any color. I suggest putting each cloth in a sandwich bag to keep it clean.

Another organization that accepts cloths is Sadie Sunshine chapter of Crochet for Cancer. These cloths can be any size or color.

100% wool cloths can be sent to soldiers but I don't know of an organization doing that right now.

When donating to ANY charity effort, you should make sure that what you are making fits their current needs before sending. Make sure any item you donate is well made, properly finished (sew those long tails in - no knotting and cutting at the knot!), and in whatever colors and yarn the organization requires.

If prayer cloths are not your thing, perhaps you enjoy making scarves. I enjoy trying out new patterns this way. I thought I'd just put a plug in here for those. Two great organizations that will get your scarves where they need to go are The Bridge and Beyond for the homeless, and Knit Your Bit for veterans. Both sites are informative and have been around for many years.

Happy crocheting!
Sandie