Although they meet once a month, this group of women is busy pretty much every day knitting 7 by 9 squares they then fashion into blankets. Those blankets keep people in need warm through cold days and are much appreciated. Warm Up America is a small but mighty knitting group that for the past 20 years has been donating afghans, quilts and blankets to the Salvation Army. In addition to the blankets the knitters also make scarves, baby hats and booties.
Warm Up America is a nationwide organization founded by Evie Rosen in the 1990s in lieu of the homeless crisis with the goal to donate knitted and crotched items to the needy and homeless. The idea was that each knitter creates 7 by 9 squares which are then joined up and made into a blanket.
When Warm Up America in Coronado was started, the group had about a dozen members but currently there are only three women who continue the work of the organization. The women hope the group will grow once again. Sue Miller, one of the three, joined in 2008. She recalls Warm Up America donated their creations to many groups including Balboa Hospital until they settled on the Salvation Army. The group donated the items to the Salvation Army through Commissioner Gwen Luttrell, who is now retired but continues to volunteer.
“We have provided beautiful things that go to clients and residents in our program. Children may never have had anything like this in their lives,” said Luttrell. “This is meaningful contribution to those who are homeless, without means, and who are striving to move beyond their circumstances into better living conditions.”
Warm Up America’s home has always been at the Senior Center. When COVID struck and the center was closed, the group continued its work. “When the center was closed we were still in business, but had no storage,” explained member Jennifer Broderick.
Broderick brought 25 squares that she knitted since the last meeting. She passed them on to Miller, who enjoys putting them together into a blanket. Usually the squares are placed on a table and the members figure out how to assemble each blanket. There is no required amount of squares to bring to the meeting and any leftovers go into a storage box for next time.
Although blankets and the 7 by 9 squares are the group’s main focus, the women knit other items that can be donated as well. In addition to blankets, member Ann De La Torre brought Halloween hats to the recent meeting which featured white, orange and black colors. Now that she is finished with her Halloween items, she is already thinking of Christmas and already has some stockings ready.
De La Torre knits everyday either for projects for herself or for the group, and looks forward to meeting the other women once a month. “It’s a casual get together with people who are also interested in knitting, and we feel useful,” she said.
Miller agreed, “We’re doing something of value.”
Broderick joined Warm Up America 6 years ago. She enjoys kitting at night while watching TV. She learned to knit as a young girl, thanks to her grandmother, and always made baby blankets to give away until she found Warm Up America in Coronado. “I found this group and I like to surround myself with kind people. Anytime people take time to do something for someone else [you know] they are good people,” she said.
“Knitting is a relaxing pastime. Once you’re proficient you don’t have to look at it,” said Broderick.
Miller recalls making 7 by 9 square as a child during World War II and bringing them to school. The squares were then made into blankets by moms and sent to soldiers. Miller really enjoys putting the squares together and creating an edge to each blanket. She looks forward to the monthly meetings. “It’a bit of a social event and we’re contributing to society,” she said of the group.
During this meeting the group donated three large blankets and three baby blankets, which they passed on to Luttrell.
The group has kept a scrapbook dating to 2006 filled with thank you cards from recipients of their knitted items, photos of blankets as well as old newspaper clippings about Warm Up America over the years.
The women stress how important it is to give blankets to the needy, something they can call their own. “You see the little kids get their blankets. It’s so nice to know, for these people, that somebody cares. For foster kids it something that is their own. A blanket can make a difference in somebody’s life,” said Miller.
“Baby blankets can also be used as wheelchair blankets and make people feel warm inside and out,” said Broderick.
The three women are thankful and intrigued by a donor, a mystery knitter, which has never been to a meeting but drops off yellow squares at the Senior Center for Warm Up America.
The group can provide those interested in joining with knitting needles, knitting instructions and yarn. Warm Up America meets on the third Wednesday of every month. The next meeting is Dec. 15 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the Senior Center.
The group welcomes donations of yarn as well as financial assistance to buy materials, which can be turned into blankets or other useful items. No amount of yarn is too small, so if you have any and wish to donate it, give the group a call. Any kind of yarn is welcome, although acrylic is preferred for ease of washing.
For more information call Ann De La Torre at 619-573-2112.