Monday, March 31, 2014

The Bridge and Beyond

Another charity organization that I've long been involved with is Bridge and Beyond run by Sandy Holladay. Sandy and I got to know one another after Hurricane Katrina when I took over Squares For Survivors from Jackie Garrison. She was invaluable to that effort and has been the driving force behind the effort to help the homeless in her native state of Ohio. 

As before, I'm including a few photos of donated items. It was very difficult to choose only a few as Sandy always amazes me with her talent for assembling a hodgepodge of squares into a beautiful afghan and the volunteers are very generous in their donations as well. Note that squares are only collected at certain times of year and are not needed presently. 

I have tried to show a variety of items that are most appreciated by the homeless community. Socks (store bought or handmade) are always on the list!  

Here are Sandy's answers to the interview questions.

The name of this organization is ... Bridge and Beyond

You can find the web site at .
[Crochet Cabana: There is also an active Facebook group here.]

Please introduce yourself and let us know your position or connection with the organization.
Sandy Holladay, Founder

How and when did the organization begin?  
Bridge and Beyond started in the fall of 2008.  From memory I want to say October.  Can't find the first post, seems blogger has nixed it.  The oldest post I see was Dec 3 08, where I talked about adding counters, so I know it was before that.

What is the purpose of this organization?
To help homeless in the central Ohio area through knitting and crocheting.

Personal hygiene items
How many others, besides yourself, are involved in leadership?
Really none in terms of the blog, or processing the mail - getting the mail, opening the boxes, counting the items, photographing, editing the photos, then writing a blog post, sending thank you emails, posting same on Facebook.

I deliver to Homeless Families Foundation and Faith Mission.  I have a friend Lynn who distributes to Holy Family and the schools in need, and a lady in Vinton County connected with St. Vincent de Paul who delivers there.  I deliver to Rae who delivers directly to those living under the bridges etc when she takes meals to them.

cotton cloths wrapped around bars of soap

Do you personally deliver the collected items to the intended recipients? If you do not, who does and how do you ensure that the items get where they need to be?
Expanding on above, all items are hand delivered, not dropped off.  

socks are always needed

How can fiber crafters help? What types of items do you accept?
Knitted or Crocheted Hats, Mittens, Slippers, Afghans, scarves, and cotton washcloths. Each item collected has an information tab on the blog with important specifics regarding size, color and fiber to ensure items donated meet the need.

wash cloths
Do you accept all types of crafting - knitting, crochet, loom, quilting, cross-stitch, plastic canvas etc.?
No, not all types of crafts are appropriate to keep people warm.  Knitted, crocheted, loomed, or quilted items are accepted; not cross-stitch or plastic canvas. [Crochet Cabana: Store bought items are also accepted, such as socks, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, 
shampoo, lotion, hair brush/comb, razors, dental floss, chap stick, handwipes, and hand warmers]

scarves and hats also always needed (check the tips on the blog for colors and sizes)
Are there any special tips or requirements for the items needed?
Yes, items need to be durable and warm, not lacy or light weight.  Items need to be clean and free of animal and people hair and odors.  See item specific tabs on the blog for detailed information.

Yarn colors, finished size of items, yarn used (wool, acrylic, sport, worsted, bulky...) Wool should not be used except for washable wool, which is fine. Fun fur and suede should not be used, nor any novelty yarn.  Acrylic, and bulky work well, as does washable wool.  Depending on what you make, sport yarn might not be as warm.  Colors should NOT be pastels and should not be super bright.  Homeless do not like to call attention to themselves, so solid dark colors are always best.  White, beige, tan should NEVER be used.  Items made in solid colors are preferred over stripes because they blend in better.

hats, please label with size

It is understandable that you need to have a person's contact information in case there is a problem and for record keeping. Do you allow participants to remain anonymous to those who receive the items?
All donations are anonymous to those who receive them.  The only exception is those who receive an afghan when they transition out of shelter living into their permanent housing situation. In that case, they receive a letter of congratulations and best wishes for their future with care instructions (laundering instructions) for their afghan from the Group, "Bridge and Beyond".

rain ponchos
Is there a particular item that you yourself enjoy making more than any other?
I don't actually get to knit or crochet as much as I used to.  I spend enormous amount of hours maintaining and promoting the blog, and processing the donations.  I enjoy assembling afghans from donated squares (though I'm currently not in need of squares, and therefore am not currently accepting them). I find it lets my creative juices flow.

Does your family participate in your charity effort? If so, how? If not, are they supportive of your work?
My daughter gets involved by helping to design afghans when she's home for Christmas typically.  She also knits and crochets.  Hubby helps by lugging boxes and bags here and there, up and down the stairs, and into the car for delivery.  He put together a work space so my "shipping and delivery" area has its own space vs constantly needing to move it around the living room.

donated yarn, always useful for square edging and afghan assembly

What do you feel makes folks hesitate to participate in a charity that is not a 501(c)(3) charity other than tax benefits? What would you say to convince them your effort is honest and trustworthy?
I'm actually not aware of anyone not participating because it's not a 501(c)(3) charity.  I get such positive feedback from people who like the grass roots nature of my charity, Bridge and Beyond.  Many in fact have had a bad or negative experience with larger organizations/501(c)(3)'s.  They like that everything is visible. They like that their donation is acknowledged. It's not even so much that they need or want to be thanked, but they do want to know their donations arrived, and many that used to donate elsewhere never knew if their donations were received.  Some even had issues with their donations being sold or not reaching the parties they had intended them for.

Do you have any advice for anyone trying to start their own charity effort?
Start small and actually think it through before you get warm and fuzzy.  lol I've talked to a good number of people throughout the years who've considered starting their own charity.  People do want to help others; but it's been my experience sometimes they're unaware of the time commitment.  It's always easier to start small and build vs making commitments to help x y z and falling short ... feeling like you've failed.  

People who are vague about whom they're helping or who are too broad in their scope typically fail.  There have been a number of groups who've started a charity with information close to this -- "Send me your handmade items and I'll give it to people in need." That's wide open. It doesn't say what's needed, how it will be delivered, or whom it will go to.  But, I've seen this type of thing too often.  Good folks get on the band wagon and a couple of weeks later the group closes, the blog becomes inactive etc.  Throughout the years, I've received odds and ends from groups that started without considering the time commitment and or people lost interest.  

I couldn't resist this picture. Snuggly warm sweater and matching scarf.
Is there anything else you'd like people to know about your charity effort or you personally?
I consider my charity, Bridge and Beyond, a job.  I take it very seriously and I'm always thinking how best to continue, or how to alter to improve things.


I'd like to thank Sandy for taking the time to answer these questions and give us some insight into what it takes to run a charity organization and specifically what is being done in her area of Ohio to help the homeless. 

If you are interested in numbers, Sandy has an accounting from 2008 to 2012 of the number of items collected. To give you an idea, over 3000 hats have been provided to the homeless in the central Ohio area through this effort during that time. Good job, Bridgers!

Happy crocheting!