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From the Heart's small beginning in no way prepared me for the explosion that has occurred!
We began mid-year 2001, just two of us, knitting at our local Starbucks Coffee Shop; me a very new knitter and she with a little more experience. We drew the attention of one of Starbucks' employees and, together, the three of us would knit and chat about once a week.
I became a Massey Cancer Volunteer in the Fall of 2001. I knitted chemo hats for their patients and began teaching knitting to anyone who slowed down in passing to ask what I was doing. I could teach them the basics...that's about all I knew, and they would knit with me each week.
My Starbucks friends and I continued to knit and by early 2002 we met our fourth member. We decided our little group needed a name and From the Heart was born. We made chemo hats for Massey Cancer Center and preemie baby hats for Virginia Commonwealth University/Medical College of Virginia's tiniest patients.
In the Fall of 2002, with approximately 10 members we jumped into making baby outfits and blankets for the Headstart program for Wise County in the Appalachian area of Virginia.
We were able to collect clothing and toys for babies through adults, sending 25 large boxes of knitted, crocheted and used clothing items plus 5 large boxes of toys to assist them in establishing a Clothes Closet for their community.
We continued our little knitting meetings through out the winter and by Spring 2003 we were drawing quite a bit of attention and our numbers began to increase. Our goal at that time was to supply a warm gentle head covering to as many cancer patients in our area as possible. We found patterns for cute little outfits and blankets for the preemies plus outfits for other needy babies at VCU/MCV. I began receiving requests for blankets to hug shivering chemo and radiation patients during their treatments.
During the Winter of 2002/2003, with our membership having grown to 30 plus members, we became more aware of the need to help the homeless in our area and began working with Friends of the Homeless.
We learned to make sleeping bags for them from donated bedding. We knitted or crocheted warm hat and mitten sets to tuck into each bag to help those less fortunate be more comfortable through out the long cold Richmond nights. We've been able to collect gently used shoes and clothing for them and, in September 2003 began to prepare and serve meals for approximately 100 hungry homeless citizens once each month.
We have contributed a few, but not nearly as many as we'd like, slippers and slipper socks to the veterans at McGuire Hospital in our area as well as blankets, hats, wheelchair and walker totes, bibs and catheter bag covers.
In the Spring of 2003 we discovered the newly opened Virginia Cancer Institute and increased our needle speed in order to supply hats and blankets to this facility.
We began keeping inventory records mid way through our first year and as of December 2008 our totals have reached over 55,000 donated items.
In July, 2005 From the Heart became a 501©3 nonprofit corporation. Tax deductible receipts can be offered for significant donations.
From our early beginnings we have offered to teach anyone to knit or crochet...no charge...we have just asked that they return the favor by helping others to learn our craft and by making a few items for some of our causes. Normally a beginner project will be a 12 inch blanket square. These are collected, stitched together and given as baby or chemo blankets. We like bright colors for these and stitch pattern is not important. When completed, these bright, cheerful blankets are welcomed by all who receive them.
Our yarn, needles and hooks are all donated. Our supplies are displayed at our shop at 1114 Westbriar Drive in Richmond, VA. We have sample items stitched and displayed with copies of their patterns.
Some of our stitchers prefer to use their own patterns and yarn and this is encouraged since we strive to offer a wide selection of styles for the recipients. We conduct workshops periodically teaching new stitching techniques to anyone interested in attending.
At present our group has grown quite a bit and it is not unusual to find 30 to 35 stitchers spending most all day every Friday at Starbucks Coffee Shop on Huguenot Road across from the River Road Shopping Center.
Our members range from 6 to 99 years old. We meet 18 to 20 times each month not only at 2 Starbucks locations, Tuckahoe and Atlee Libraries, as well as our West-End shop. We have several sub-groups; Chamberlayne Heights United Methodist Church, The Valley Knitters in Waynesboro and Roanoke Rapid Stitchers, group in Lynchburg, inmates at a facility, plus several retirement communities and senior centers. Our number has increased to over 1,000 members as of early 2008.
I have been truly blessed! So many wonderful, caring people have come into my life through From the Heart, giving a little assistance to so many in need. We constantly find new situations where we can be of help and encourage anyone who finds a needy area to please bring it to our attention. We invite anyone interested to join us either by email, web site or check our latest newsletter for our schedule and just show up!
"Our mission is to serve our community by preserving and promoting fiber arts, creating a spirit of fellowship and love among our volunteers and board members, and producing handmade items which bring comfort, love and solace to others." FTH