For years, RSVP* has distributed hundreds of knitted and crocheted items to agencies serving those experiencing homelessness and low-income program participants across King County. This year, while strange and difficult for everyone, has fortunately been no exception.
With a few tweaks to our distribution system and volunteer involvement, RSVP’s Knit-It-Alls (KIA) program was once again able to support agencies county-wide in providing some homemade care to members of our community who are living on low incomes and/or unsheltered.
All year long, RSVP members from all over King County continued to knit blankets, sweaters, hats, scarves and more for babies, children, and adults – just as they had in pre-pandemic times. Collecting these items, however, was a bit trickier than in the past. Because RSVP staff were not regularly in the office to receive donations as volunteers would drop them off, staff had to coordinate with volunteers individually to make sure someone would be able to meet them and take in their items. The extra logistical work was well worth it – I personally got to connect with more RSVP knitters than I had previously – and connection, especially during these physically-distanced times, cannot be taken for granted.
It was heartening to get to see the hands and faces behind the stunning items that come through our KIA program. RSVP and Solid Ground staff marvel over the creations knitters make to donate to perfect strangers. This year, it was an unexpected blessing to meet some of the volunteers who donate their time and talent making such beautiful items to help folks stay warm during the colder months.
Normally, we distribute in time for agencies’ holiday gatherings and celebrations. This year, due to pandemic-related delays and scheduling difficulties, our distribution happened after the New Year. Sadly, we also could not hold regular “tagging days” where groups of volunteers come in to sew tags that say “Hand Knit By RSVP” to label the knitted items we receive throughout the year.
These tagging days are one activity I truly missed this year. I always enjoy spending time with volunteers, and while we tag together, we often play music and swap stories. You can really learn a lot about a person by the kind of music they’re willing to admit, in public, that they love! (Bob Segar, Steve Miller Band, The Eurhythmics, Tom Petty and 1940s swing/big band are my go-tos!) Afterwards, we often enjoyed lunch together.
Reflecting on this past year, I realized that those tagging days encapsulate nearly everything I am grieving the loss of and yearn to return to post-pandemic.
The tagging did get done, however. With major support from three of our long-time volunteers who have helped with tagging in the past (including one who also knits blankets to donate) as well as members of the Volunteer Services Team (Jen, Lily, and Sam), we were able to tag the almost 1,500 items we received this year.
While this number is lower than in previous years, we expected this due to the effects of the pandemic. We distributed items countywide to individuals and families experiencing homelessness through four agencies: Eastside Baby Corner, Jewish Family Services, North Helpline, and Solid Ground.
While not part of the holiday celebration it usually is, KIA survived this difficult year. People who need it have a bit of warmth to remind them that there are people thinking of them throughout the county – along with comfort in the knowledge that this care continues despite the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic.
On a personal note, this year’s KIA tagging and distribution has shown me just how strong and supportive a team I am a part of. I don’t know anyone who had an ideal year in 2020, but it’s through adversity – as much as or perhaps even more than during positive times – that people either come together or push apart.
My team came together to offer immense support for KIA this year and more. While I wouldn’t want to do 2020 again, I am deeply touched by and grateful for being able to go into 2021 knowing what a caring, hardworking team I have to count on for support and encouragement as we continue to weather this pandemic and its fallout.
Thank you team, thank you taggers, and thank you knitters – KIA would definitely not have happened this year without your dedication to your community.
If you’re 55+ and interested in learning more about volunteering through Solid Ground’s RSVP of King County, please contact RSVP Coordinator Megan Wildhood at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206.694.6786.