Thursday, November 20, 2014

Service Project: Knit Hats for Crayons to Computers

Last fall, I stumbled upon a website for KidKnits, and I was intrigued by their mission.  KidKnits was founded in 2011, by a nine-year-old girl named Ellie.  In the summer of 2011, she and her GIRL SCOUT TROOP had learned to knit on a round loom.  She enjoyed making hats for others which gave her a great idea.  She took that idea and ran with it.  Ellie and her family created this organization that sells knitting craft kits.  These kits include yarn that is hand-spun and dyed by women in Rwanda and Chile.  These women and their families benefit from the sale of these kits.  While bumping around the KidKnits website, I decided I would love to receive a KidKnits craft kit for Christmas that year.  I was so excited to open the bag to see the brightly-colored yarn!  A few days later, my daughters and I began knitting our first hat by wrapping the soft yarn around the pegs of the round loom. Before we knew it, we had made a beautiful, warm, winter hat.  We enjoyed this so much that we ran out to the craft store to purchase several more skeins of yarn.  We made several hats that winter—for family, friends, and even baby dolls!

When it was time for our Girl Scout troop to decide how to spend their cookie money, we encouraged them to use the money to help others in addition to covering the cost of a fun activity.  When shown the hats my girls and I had made, the troop was excited to use cookie money earned during last year’s cookie sale (2014) to purchase round looms for a service project we scheduled for this school year.  Throughout the summer, the other troop leader and I would occasionally check Michaels for the Loops and Threads 9.5” Round Loom.  This product sells for $8.99, but with our 40% off coupons, we were able to purchase them for $5.75 each.  For the past few years, we have collected $20 in dues from each girl in our troop at the beginning of the school year.  This year, we collected only $15, and we asked the families to purchase two skeins of yarn for this service project.  I had found yarn on sale for $2.50 a skein, and we wanted the girls to be able to choose their favorite yarn for the project.  Our initial plan was to have each girl knit one hat and one scarf for donation. 

The girls spent one entire meeting focusing on learning how to knit on the round loom and perfecting the technique as they started their first hat.  They found out quickly not to wrap the yarn too tightly around the pegs.  They took their projects home, and we asked family members to help them finish if they asked.  I received some feedback from a few parents—some of the girls required a great deal of help, and a couple needed to run out to buy new hooks.  Once the girls figured it out, they all decided they want to knit hats to give as Christmas gifts this year!

Knowing we would have all these items to donate, I did a quick internet search to find out where we could take them.  I discovered an organization called Crayons to Computers that "operates a free store for teachers from nearly 600 greater Cincinnati area schools in 16 counties (in Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and Indiana), offering new and gently used school supplies, educational tools, and incentive items."  Crayons to Computers also promotes a program called Keep Our Kids Warm.  They welcome donations of hats, gloves, and mittens that teachers can take back to give their students in need.  Perfect!  I spoke with the Volunteer Coordinator and scheduled a time to visit on a weekday evening, our typical meeting time.  I also asked if there was anything the girls could do to help out while we were there.

The girls in our troop are proudly showing their donations.

See the shelves of hats, gloves, and mittens in center of photo.

 Upon our arrival at the store, we were given a tour.  There were quite a few teachers bustling about, pushing carts full of school supplies and essentials for their students.  We learned that there are companies in our city working hard to be Zero Waste companies, and they donate many different items to Crayons to Computers.  Staff and volunteers at Crayons to Computers find creative ways to use the donations from these companies to benefit teachers and students.  During our tour, we saw numerous examples of how these companies can reduce, reuse, and recycle to benefit our communities.  The girls really enjoyed seeing this in action.

Repurposed packaging tubes make great tools for practicing math facts.
After the tour, the girls were asked to assemble packages of award certificates that will be made available for teachers to take back to their classrooms.  Our girls are eager to please, and they all enjoy earning awards in school.  They understand how much it will mean to the students who would eventually receive these awards.  They truly enjoyed working on this project together.

 Crayons to Computers is a wonderful organization to visit!  Girl Scout troops of all ages can volunteer to help with various projects that need to be completed to ensure the sustainability of this organization.  Depending on the project, troops could easily satisfy steps toward earning several different Daisy petals or Girl Scout badges.  Thank you for reading!

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