Crafting for a Cause

By Kristin Boza 

Crafty residents of Smith Village have joined together in the Crafting for a Cause group that knits and crochets a variety of items for those in need. Their latest project aids Blankets for Baby Rhinos, a global organization that provides knit blankets and funds for food for animals affected by poaching in South Africa. 

Crafting for a Cause, led by Smith Village human resources director Karen Jellema, was created by residents who wanted to get together to knit and crochet, but also wanted the work they produced to benefit others. The group developed a list of organizations to help support throughout the year, including veterans groups, NICU babies, and homeless individuals. 

“There is a definite problem with poaching in Africa, in particular for rhinos that are poached for their horns. Young rhinos are dependent on their mothers for a few years; when poachers kill the mother, it can be a death sentence for the baby left behind,” Jellema said. “The blankets keep the babies warm, as they are under terrible stress. The animal sanctuary rehabilitates the baby rhinos and other animals to eventually release them into protected national parks where they will be safe from poachers.” 

Jellema said that volunteers at the animal sanctuary reduce the stress on the baby rhinos by taping their ears and eyes shut, which helps to reduce sensory input and gives the rhinos the ability to recover quietly from their stressful situation. “Their instinct is to run, which can cause injuries. Volunteers work 24/7 with the babies to feed them milk from bottles. From there, they eventually reintroduce their hearing and sight once the rhinos begin to trust their human caregivers.” 

The 13 participants in the crafting group are benefitting from the work as much as their recipients. “We do it because we enjoy reaching out to those in need. Also, there are many studies supporting the idea that actually doing this type of tactile work boosts mental well-being. It’s also beneficial to come together every other week to talk and work together for a greater good,” Jellema said. “It’s a great feeling to see our tables piled high with sweaters, scarves, hats, and other items that we made together.” 

Crafting for a Cause is open to interested crafters in the community. Additionally, the group accepts donations of yarn or cash to purchase supplies. Contact Karen Jellema, KJellema@SmithSeniorLiving.org or 773-474-7355.