This month’s meeting was our annual bear donation to the Georgia Center for Child Advocacy. The Atlanta Knitting Guild started out knitting trauma bears for police officers to take with them and over the years developed the relationship with the GCCA. The GCCA sees between 650 to 700 children who are victims of abuse or witnesses to such abuse each year, and our bears provide a small measure of comfort to those children.
Last year we collected 311 bears, and I thought we could meet and beat that goal this year. When I challenged the AKG at the July meeting where we distributed copies of the Beary Easy Sweater by Diana Rishel, I never knew how quickly and fervently our knitters would accept that challenge.
Last year also inspired one members’ granddaughter to collect bears with her Daisy troop, and this year that same girl’s Brownie troop carried on that tradition. All year long the same group of girls collected bears. We invited them to come before the actual meeting to see the dressed bears ready to go for this year, and they brought bags of bears with them again. I loved seeing their delight when they saw all the dressed bears. Not only have they been learning the joys of community service in a way that doesn’t involve a DUI and a judge, but I think we’re planting the seeds of a new generation of handcrafters.
I’d been told there was another young lady collecting bears, and that she would be attending with a friend. What I didn’t know is that this had been her service project to graduate from elementary school. She attended with two friends, as well as two younger brothers in tow, and they brought bags of bears and non-bears. She and her friend had set up collection boxes at her school, made posters and written articles for the school paper. The five of them dove right into dressing and labeling the bears with enthusiasm, even forgoing cake and snacks until their job was completed.
In the meantime, the members of the AKG had stepped up and been knitting bear clothes at an astonishing rate. Earlier this fall, our longtime bear coordinator, Jean G., had let us know that she would have to give up her position due to exciting new opportunities in her life. She said she could help through the December meeting, and in the meantime, we found not one, but two wonderful members to step into her shoes. Jeanne K. and Joyce O. came in with all sorts of new ideas about how to reach out to the community to collect bears and spread word of our mission. They took in bears, washed the ones that needed a good bath, dressed them in donated clothing, and tagged them.
Joyce, an amazing quilter, even made an Atlanta Knitting Guild Bears tablecloth. I was astounded to see it that night!
Jeanne was told of a charity luncheon held by the …, which she attended. She came from that luncheon with another 80+ bears! She and Joyce got them dressed and labeled before coming to the meeting.
Whit also had the opportunity to get some bears from the Atlanta Mart, and she donated 50 bears to our efforts.
As usual, the bears kept coming in all during the night. Thank goodness we had a stack of sweaters waiting for them. We also received a pile of bear scarves that Arlene of Needle Nook brought. She had encouraged the attendees of the first Wine and Wool retreat to knit scarves from mini skeins she had received from one of her yarn reps. Needle Nook’s customers contributed about 170 knitted and crocheted items to our bear this year.
What’s our goal for next year? That’s a great question. While I jokingly said that we should aim for 450 bears, I know that’s a lot to ask. However, Brenda from the Georgia Center of Child Advocacy told us a story of a 16 year old boy who had been beaten nearly to death by his father. After his interview, he was taken to the room where the bears are, and the counselor who was working with him invited him to take a bear if he wanted to. After all, he’s a 16 year old boy. This young man did take one of the bears. This is why it’s so important to dress and donate these bears. The GCCA works with children as young as 3 up to teenagers. They are why we collect and dress the bears. It’s a small kindness to let these children know the world has kind and caring people in it. For that, I thank everyone who has participated in making this year so amazing and bountiful. As an aside, it took 2 SUV’s to get all the bears packed last night. As for the non-bears, we sent them to the Atlanta Women’s Day Shelter for the children there to enjoy.
- Blog Post by Eve B., our faithful leader