It worked to start a Threads of Compassion chapter in OKC

Now that we’ve been doing Threads of Compassion OKC for over 5 years it seems like a good time to share some of what has worked for us. Over the years people from lots of places have contacted me to ask about starting their own chapter. I figure that sharing what’s worked here could be helpful for others looking for a place to begin.

For us it started because I was looking for charity ideas on the Lion Brand yarn website. I’d learned to crochet with some women at church and was really enjoying crocheting but was running out of people in need of gifts. When I saw the link to the Chicago Chapter of Threads of Compassion it was easy to see that it could be a perfect fit for me. Combining my new love of crochet with my desire to continue healing as a survivor of sexual assault and being able to offer some comfort to other survivors just seemed like a great idea.

In December of 2009 I contacted the Rape Crisis Center in Oklahoma City and asked them if they had a chapter here or had heard of it. They didn’t and hadn’t, but were interested in starting. I’ll admit it was a bit intimidating for me to make that call, but the person I talked to was very encouraging and willing to give this a try with me. So, I went for it! The first delivery was some scarves I made myself during Christmas break that year, and I recruited other friends and the project grew and grew.

I designed a card to print and put with the scarves, it is a pretty simple one and at first I printed them at Office Depot on card stock using coupons I found online. I also purchased some plastic bags from a company called ULine, those have worked out well for us. The finished scarves are folded and then a card is attached with a twist tie and put into the bag that is taped closed. It makes a nice package that stacks well for storage. You can see lots of photos of our work on our Facebook page.

We started having meetings each month, I couldn’t think of a super-creative title for them so I went with”work days”. For us Sunday afternoons has been a good time and we’re able to use a classroom at a church building. It’s a convenient location with plenty of parking and no one feels pressured to buy anything like we may if we met at a coffee shop or a store. At our work days we package completed scarves, work on new ones, share pattern ideas, and enjoy meeting others who are also working on the project.

Following the work day I make arrangements with our contact at the YWCA to deliver the scarves to them. They get them delivered and stored at the hospitals so that they are available when needed.

You can do this too! If you’re wanting to get involved in your hometown here’s what I’d recommend based on what worked for me here. It’s not an exact blueprint, but a place to begin:

  • Check with the rape crisis center to see if they’ve ever done this or know about it. If there are multiple centers in town, check with them all.
  • If there is already a chapter, join them 🙂
  • If there isn’t a chapter, then you get to decide if you want to start one. If so, here are some things to think about:
    • How long you will be in town? Is this your home or just a place you’re passing through? My undergraduate years were done in a place I don’t still live, so if that’s your situation it will be important for you to find some others who plan to be there long term to keep the program going once you leave.
    • Do you have connections to others who knit or crochet that will want to join you?
    • Do you have time to commit to creating some scarves, organizing things, dropping off scarves, and contacting others to join in?
    • You don’t have to do all of this alone, in fact it’s better done with friends!
  • Find out if the Rape Crisis Center staff wants you to do this, are they be willing and able to distribute the scarves? Developing a relationship with the person in charge of assault services at our Rape Crisis center was essential. Also, see if they can give you an idea of how many people they see each month so that you can see if you will have a way to meet the demand. Here in OKC the number when we started was 30.
  • Here in OKC at first we just gave the scarves out at the hospital when someone went in for an exam following an assault, after a couple of years we expanded that to also include people who came to the center for counseling services.
  • Recruit friends to knit and crochet with you. Having a monthly work day has been good for us, you may want to plan something like that as well.
  • Recruit help purchasing bags and cards/printing, so that you can package the finished scarves.
  • We’ve received quite a bit of yarn as donations, people who have family members that have passed away have given some as well as friends who have given me gift cards to Hobby Lobby to buy yarn have been great.
  • Having a website helped us, our site is www.threadsokc.org – my husband knows about websites and did that part for me. Even if creating a website is new to you, chances are good that you could figure it out yourself on WordPress. They’ve made the program easy to use for non-technical people and there are lots of things you can do without having to pay fees for the services.
  • In addition to the website, we also started a Facebook page. That’s been a good way to share information about our work days and to post pictures.
  • Once you’ve started don’t forget to let the Chicago Chapter know so that they can add you to their list of active chapters.

Some other things to think about that have come up over the years:

  • How to handle donations that don’t meet your requirements. Most chapters of Threads of Compassion ask that the donated scarves be at least 5″ wide and 65″ long. This size makes it possible for most people to comfortably wear the scarf if they choose to wear it.
  • How to find others to join you.
  • If you have monthly meetings, how to communicate if you have to cancel due to something like weather problems in the winter.
  • Who can help you coordinate things and update your Facebook page and website if you become unavailable.
  • Are there other ways you can be involved with your local rape crisis center? Here in OKC there is a 5K each year in April as part of sexual assault awareness month. We have a booth at the event so that we can answer questions and let others know about our group. We now also have a team in the run and some of our friends and volunteers join the race.

I’m so glad we started Threads of Compassion OKC! It has been a great thing for me, my friends, and survivors here in OKC. I hope that hearing about our experience encourages you.

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