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A Look at the Beginning – Part 2

I’m hoping you read the first post about our beginnings. This post is a continuation and will focus on Kathy. She’s a bit shy, so I, Leah, will be writing it for her. I assure you I am qualified to do so as her daughter.

4generationsKathy, including step-children, is mom to six and grandmother to eleven. She may be retired from her career, but she is one of the busiest people I know. If she isn’t running after her youngest grandchild, she is quite active with the local American Legion, assisting one of her many siblings,  and until some-what recently, one of the full time caregivers for her mom.

She has been onboard since the beginning. Kathy started by re-learning to knit and crochet. She spent her evening hours making squares while watching TV with her family. Less than a month after Love-Squared became a reality, Kathy’s husband died suddenly. I can’t speak for her too in-depth on this subject, but I think crocheting squares became a task that allowed her to take a mental break while keeping her busy. As the number of squares increased,  she took on the task of putting the blankets together. Kathy can complete at least two blankets to my one.

Kathy’s house became a local drop-off location and is one of the Michigan addresses you all send squares to.  She was receiving so many boxes every day that the mail carrier asked her about them. The mail carrier took some flyers and information to give to her church group. She also suggested that Kathy put a big waterproof tub on the porch and she would just drop the packages there instead of handing them off in person each time. kathyseaming

Without Kathy and Christie, Love-Squared would have come to an end when my family had to move to Oregon. Her house remains a drop-off and mailing location, she still organizes sorting parties, coordinates with Christie about finished blankets for donation, recruits friends and family to help seam, and gives up a large corner of her garage to house squares and blankets. She hardly ever groans when I come up with a new challenge, which means a lot of work falls on her. We would be lost without her and I can’t thank her enough for taking on an overwhelming amount of work.

kathytent

 

 

 

A look at the beginning.

Leah and her four children standing against a barn door.

How did we begin? I wish I had a great story to tell, but it’s pretty simple. Love-Squared became a reality because I couldn’t find a yarn-based charity that was simple and local. This is the first post in a series about all of us behind the scenes.

My name is Leah. Currently, I work full-time as a plant nursery associate. I live in Oregon with my husband, four active kids, a dog, cats, lizard, and chickens. At the time, I lived in Michigan, was a stay at home parent to four kids who were under eight years old. I had recently learned how to knit so I could make wool pants for my infant. I was looking to branch out a little and charity knitting sounded like a great idea. There are so many yarn-based charities out there. It was a little overwhelming, but also frustrating. It was difficult to find a charity that matched my time and skill level and one that was a bit more local. A lot of the hats for hospitals had stopped taking donations because they had too many. Even more charities were focused on over seas organizations and the high cost of international shipping was a problem. My husband’s solution was, “start your own.”

I thought he was crazy. How was I going to do that? Where would I even begin? I laughed it off, but his words kept popping into my brain and began to take root. Hmmm…what am I passionate about? I’ve always been an advocate for our houseless community members. I started looking for homeless charities in my area and found many for adults. What about homeless kids? Why are there no groups for homeless kids?  Should I start one? Could I start one? I can at least try.

Oliver snuggling with his blankie in black and white.The idea for blankets came from my own kids. All four of them had a blankie. Even my eldest still had his blankie hiding in his room. Blankie was a best friend. It meant comfort, warmth, love, and was often a source of courage. I wanted to give other kids that sense of ownership and friendship. Something to snuggle when things were a little scary or stressful. Something soft and warm that could make them smile. I can do this!

I started knitting. I soon discovered that blankets take a long time to knit. Blankets, even small blankets, took way too long and required too much yarn. I think I got about half finished with the first blanket when I was ready to give up. I’m not sure when I thought of these blankets in terms of a quilt, but it saved the idea. Quilts are made up of smaller, more manageable blocks. I can whip out a few blocks a day and eventually have a whole quilt. Knitted squares would be the same. I could make squares any time and just about anywhere – park, at school pick-up, baseball, etc.

May 11, 2011 was the day Love-Squared became official. I had knit the first square and made an announcement to all of my friends and family on Facebook. My sister Randi sent a stack of snuggly squares4 rainbow colored knitted squares from Atlanta and we were moving forward. I got the courage to ask the owner of a local business if they would be a drop-off location for a month. I’ll never forget Jen and her Dragonfly Tea Cottage patrons – This is how I first met the fabulous Christie, but that’s a story to be told soon. I was thinking I’d get maybe 20-30 squares that month. Instead, there were over 100 squares to collect. Jen kept the basket and her customers kept filling it. We began holding knit nights on the big front porch and things took Women sitting and knitting on a large porch.off. Thanks to the Dragonfly and Love-Squared, I had made some wonderful life-long friends.

The squares were piling up, I had to find a place that would take the finished blankets. After many phone calls, unanswered messages and emails from various organizations, Renee at Family House responded. They would love to receive our blankets.  I was giddy with nerves and excitement when I dropped off the first donation of seven blankets.

We have come a long way since 2011. It took two years to reach a goal of 1000 squares in six months. In 2016 we attempted to receive squares from all 50 states. In the end we had reached 27 states, Puerto Rico, two provinces in Canada, and Europe.  Today, we are stuffing squares instead of clothes into closets and giving up entire rooms and garages. We’ve been able to donate 100 blankets annually during the Tent City Toledo event on top of the blankets we still donate to Family House.  We are still growing and still figuring out what comes next.

seven patchwork blanket hanging on a swing set

7 blankets!!

Tent City – Toledo, Ohio

I plan to write about Tent City and 1Matters more in-depth later on, but I have to acknowledge that the annual event was supposed to be this weekend. Covid-19 has made it impossible to gather so many people in one place and keep safe.

Joe and Christie wearing Love Squared shirts and holding a love squared blanket at tent city.Every year hundreds of volunteers come together for the sole purpose of Toledo’s houseless community. According to their own website, last year volunteers served 2,800 meals to around 1,200 peA young boy and his mom with a love squared blanket at tent city.ople; medical professionals provided 350 people with care; barbers and stylists gave 172 haircuts; and over 200 ID’s and birth certificates were applied for.  Along with the basic needs areas, there are clothing tents, people helping vets and non-vets find services, entertainment, and respect.  The amount of community and compassion that happens over 2.5 days is astounding.

The Love-Squared crew takes 100 blankets every year. It’s always a weekend we look forward to. Not only are we part of the giant community gathered together, we get to see every child light up when they find the blanket that was meant to be theirs. Instead of writing more, and repeating what will be written later on, I will post some of my favorite photos from past Tent City weekends. Maybe you’ll even see some of your own squares in the photos.

 

 

 

 

 

Love-Squared during Covid

Hello to you all.

It has been a shameful amount of time since I, Leah, last did a blog post or responded to questions.  I want you all to know that we are still going strong – collecting squares and donating blankets.

Covid, and the Covid safety measures, have definitely changed the way we are doing things personally and with Love-Squared. Mail is still moving slower than normal, but we are receiving your squares. It may take us a bit longer to post them because we do let the packages quarantine for a few days before being handled and opened. We are keeping direct contact with others to an absolute minimum, which means sorting parties and any teaching groups have been put on hold. Kathy will be sorting squares in the next weeks to keep a steady supply of blankets ready to be seamed. Christie has been busy in her studio as well as keeping up on the facebook messages and posts. I have been taking squares to work and seaming on breaks. It is slow-going, but blankets are being completed rather easily. At last count, we had nearly 200 blankets ready to go.

The annual Tent City event in Toledo, OH was to be October 23- 25th. Sadly, it has been cancelled due to Covid. There are so many people who depend on the services provided during the weekend event.  Each year, 100 blankets made from your squares, are taken and chosen by their child. This year, the blankets will be going to shelters and organizations that are still able to accept donations.

Unfortunately, the longer we are dealing with Covid, the more families and individuals will be losing their home. It makes what we all do that much more important. Keep making and sending squares and blankets. If you are close to any of the drop locations and can help seam, get in touch. We can use all the help we can get.

Before I end this note, a reminder of our needs: Each blanket consists of thirty 8-inch x 8-inch squares and measures a bit over 40″ x 48″. The squares may be any pattern or color, but PLEASE remember no stiff dish cotton or old, scratchy, smelly yarn. Please knot your ends and weave in the ends. This is important to keep the squares form coming apart during shipping and sorting.

Until next time,

Leah (Christie and Kathy too)

 

Challenge 2019

It is SUMMER! It may not feel like it for most of the United States, but the calendar says it is. In the spirit of summer, Christie and I were discussing some of the new things going on with Love-Squared. Some fun and exciting, some just basic housekeeping. If you follow the facebook page you know that we have a new chapter of L2 in Des Moines, Iowa. That is pretty exciting news. Conny was one of the very first supporters back in 2011. We would gather at the Dragonfly Tea Cottage in Sylvania, Ohio for weekly knit nights to knit and brainstorm. I miss those days.

I’m losing myself down Memory Lane. Any way, squares are continuing to come in. The Portland Chapter was approached by a retirement home that is putting together a knit and crochet group. They are going to be helping make squares and seaming. I cannot express my joy at having help seaming! I am even happier at the timing. I have recently found a shelter very close to my house that helps women with children. A new family shelter is in the works as well. I will be contacting them soon about their needs and possibility of using our blankets for the kids who reside within the shelter.

Even more exciting – IT’S CHALLENGE TIME!!!!
We had so much fun with the geographic challenge a few years ago, we decided to do it again. If memory is correct, we received squares form 27 States, Finland, and 2 Canada Provinces. It was great adding each donation to the map my husband created. So, any squares arriving between July 1 and December 31st, are going on the new map and entered into a drawing for a Love-Squared tote full of surprises. We have some ideas, but won’t be able to share until we start gathering.

Start sharing the challenge, and get all of your friends and family members around the globe to send in squares. Even 1 square gets a spot on the map and an entry in the drawing.

As always, squares may be sent to any of our address listed here. You have 5 months to get them in and get yourself on the map.

8423 N Seneca St.            217 Nichols Dr.              6750 Sterns Rd.                     4223 Ingersoll Ave

Portland, OR 97203        Saline, MI 48176           Ottawa Lake, MI 49267        Des Moines, IA 50312

 

It’s time for a Raffle to go with this update

Time is flying. I was in disbelief when I looked at the calendar this morning. I’ve been watching the leaves change and fall here in Portland, but realizing it’s mid-November was shocking. Your squares have been coming in regularly and keeping the seamers working. At one point, the Michigan Chapter had over 200 blankets seamed and ready to go. That is a Love-Squared record!!!

Thanks to everyone’s efforts, We were able to take forty blankets to the jackson Interfaith Shelter in Jackson, Michigan. While they don’t have forty kids in the shelter at the moment, the blankets will be needed as families seek shelter from the falling temperatures. We are also scrambling to be sure we have enough blankets ready to go for the 65 kids at Family House.

Those of you who have been followers for a while, or follow our facebook page, know how much we love 1Matters and their annual Tent City event, held in October. I say it often, if you are in the Toledo, Ohio/Michigan area, I highly recommend signing up for a volunteer spot. A couple hours of your time means so much to those in need of help and to those who are in charge of the event. You can visit HERE to see photos of volunteers in action. This was our second year setting up and handing out blankets. Last year we took 100 blankets, and Christie raced to complete one more so no child was left out. This year, Christie, Kathy, and Pat took 106 blankets, and gave out 100. Take a quick peak at the photos above. LOOK AT THOSE SMILES!!!! These kids are why we do what we do and why each of your squares are so important.

As I hinted in the title, it is time for a raffle. For squares postmarked November 1st – January 31st, we will be issuing virtual raffle tickets. ONE ticket for every FIVE squares you send in. We will be keeping a running tally. On February 5th, I will be entering all of the tickets into a random number generator to choose the winner. You will have a chance to win a project bag full of stuff, including a book of patterns, various yarns and notions. I will be posting photos as we make the selections. Christie and I are having fun shopping for just the right items. I have to tell you, I have squished some amazing hanks and skeins. I know my fiber wish-list has been growing with each trip to the LYS.

As always, keep the squares coming. We love each and every one of them. Until the next post,

Leah

 

My morning meet-up

More often than not, I interact with you all via facebook or email. Rarely do I get the chance to meet you and thank you in person. Today was one of the rare days. I had the pleasure of meeting up with Mary, at the Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon for the Purple Hats Kick-Off. Not only did I get to meet someone I have been emailing back and forth with since February, I got to learn about one of her other projects. As well as knitting squares for us, Mary knits Period of Purple Crying Caps for Click for Babies.

 

These purple hats bring awareness to those times of an infant’s increased crying, often mis-termed as colic. Not only is this period of time normal, it is also a time when babies are at the highest risk for shaken baby syndrome. I learned more than I could possibly pass on to all of you. I recommend you check it out, learn a bit, and knit or crochet a few hats.

purple-acro_medium copy

Holy Smokes!

I just wanted to pop in and say WHOA! In the few weeks since the announcement of the EVERY STATE CHALLENGE, we have gained almost 100 new likes on our facebook page, several emails, ravelry forum posts, and website comments/questions. This is a remarkable accomplishment. In my opinion, this challenge is a success already.

The SE Michigan/NW Ohio group is hosting a sorting party at the American Legion in Saline, MI, on March 6th. I will post details this weekend. I can tell you there are at least 15 large plastic bins of squares needing to be sorted. I am excited to find out how many blankets we have waiting to be made.

The Portland, Oregon chapter of Love-Squared is off to a great start. So far, I have received over 200 squares. Word is spreading and I expect there will be more coming this way soon. I am looking into family shelters as well as other donation locations in thePortland, Oregon area. I am open to suggestions.

Leah

Color Choices are not limited to the bright and cheery.

I have been undecided whether to share this. There is always the concern that if we post a need for a certain color, that is all we will receive. Since it has been asked several times recently, I will write about it. We really do use white and black squares. While we would never make a solid white blanket, we do use whites to offset some of the crazy, should never work together, squares. Many times, black helps calm super bright blankets while making other colors pop.

White, black, and gray are the least donated colors, but often times the most needed. I am not saying only send us these colors. Please keep the solids, stripes, and fun squares coming. We love them and need them. But, if you run across a great deal on whites, black, or gray, don’t hesitate, we do use them all.

Thank you all for your continued support. The show of interest and love from everyone has been wonderful. Remember, keep the squares coming and spread the word. We will conquer the EVERY STATE CHALLENGE.

I’ve been thinking again.

It has been busy for Love-Squared since Tent City. Squares have been arriving steadily. This week, between Christie, Kathy, and myself, we have been fielding questions and comments from long-time followers and people just hearing about us. Most of the traffic has been coming through our facebook page, but not all of it. To those of you out there spreading the word, a huge heartfelt “THANK YOU.”

Anyway, before I let myself get more distracted, the huge upswing in interaction has me thinking. Usually, when I begin thinking, it leads to a new challenge. Our last challenge was a smashing success. I really had my doubts that we would actually collect enough squares to make 100 blankets. Again, you all proved me wrong. This challenge is going to be a bit different. Instead of challenging you with a number, I challenge you by location. Intrigued?

How many of the 50 states can we collect squares from? This may be the most difficult challenge yet. It is going to heavily rely on word of mouth. I believe our first 1,000 challenge brought squares in from 26 states and several countries. This time, can we collect from all 50 states? I honestly don’t know, but I can’t wait to see you all try.

IMG_2293Now it’s time for all of you to get busy keeping the three of us busy. Start knitting and crocheting, send some emails, or better yet, reach out and call someone you haven’t spoke to in a while.  From Today through July 31, 2016 we will be keeping track of and posting locations.

Leah