Tuesday, November 2, 2010

HCD Report 03/11/10

Hi All,

I have just walked in through the door, kicked my shoes off my poor aching feet, armed myself with a well earned beer, and sat down to write this before collapsing into a crumpled heap.

The day started early, with the Glass House Mountains contingent heading out at 05:45 hrs this morning, in order to be at the RNA showgrounds in plenty of time to do the final setting up before HCD kicked off at 08:00 hrs. Unfortunately, traffic conditions, in the form of a 5 car prang on the Bruce Highway, closely followed by another prang just metres away as the first one was finally cleared up, were against us. However, we arrived safe and sound eventually, but missed a couple of our members dropping off donations on the way to work because of our tardiness.

The Diary Pavillion proved to be very spacious, if a little on the hot side. We had three tables for our donations, and were able to expand them out slightly to give us a bit more storage space behind them. Chairs however were at a premium. It is amazing just how much space over 2000 knitted/crocheted/sewn articles can occupy.

As per usual, we could have given away twice as many blankets. The indigenous coloured items disappeared in a blink of an eye, so if you were late out of bed this morning, you missed out on the Red Black and Yellow blankets, scarves and beanies. Also in very high demand were the adult jumpers and cardigans, as well as the toys. Stuffed knitted animals, teddies, rag dolls went like hot cakes. We never seem to have enough of them.

As far as position went, we were in a very good spot today, very close to the entrance to the medical services and hair dressers, so there wasn't much chance of us being missed. We hadn't been placed in a corner at the back. For once we were in the main thoroughfare, so were able to connect with a lot of people.

It is always good to see a familiar face as it lets you know that someone you have met before is still safe and well, but at the same time disheartening, as it means that they are still in need of assistance, and haven't been able to get out of the Homelessnees Trap. Having been regular contributors to HCD for a number of years now, a few good relationships have been built up. There were more than a few hugs and kisses.

Thankfully however, there were many fewer tears than I have experienced before. Of all of the HCDs that I have attended, I would have to say that this was the happiest so far. Yes, there was a sad story or two, but on the whole the whole event was upbeat and positive in it's atmosphere.

One gentleman was telling us that he has been on the wagon for 5 1/2 weeks now. He is obviously a doting Grandfather, as all he wanted from us was things that he could give to his Grandchildren. However, because of his problem with alcohol, his son, and his daughter had refused him access to their children. His behaviour when under the influence of drink was too disruptive to family and home life. So, wholly and solely because his Grandchildren were his reason for living, he was taking the plunge and giving up the grog. 5 1/2 weeks is an admirable start to kicking an addition. We all have our fingers crossed that this gentleman will continue to be successful.

As well as a constant stream of HCD Clients coming to our tables, we also had a constant stream of other service organisation coming over to visit. Over the years we have build up quite a rapport with other Service Providers. At the end of the day, any items that we have that are left over, and it is only ever a few, we give directly to these organisations so that they can distribute them to their clients. It is heartbreaking when the leader of Brisbane Youth Services comes asking for baby clothes, only to learn that some children as young as 13 or 14 are themselves having children. A few years ago, I may have become very judgemental when hearing such news, now, my heart just goes out to someone so young who finds themselves in such a situation. We can only imagine what circumstances has lead to that.

By the time we were packing up for the day, we had all run out of Business Cards, and Peter had collected a veritable mountain of them from the other Service Providers. In a few weeks time, Karen and Peter will start to call around to all the other organisations who were there today to ask if we can be of assisstance to their work at all. Hopefully at the same time, we will start to receive a few calls of offers of donations, whether that be yarn or funds. Certainly everyone that I spoke to from a Service Providers was left in no doubt at all that we would happily receive any donations of yarn, however large, that may come our way!!!

The few mini Christmas Stockings containly lollies that we took along were also willingly accepted, as too were a few items of costume jewellry. From previous experience, people who are homeless, or at risk of homelessness still want to give gifts to family and friends at Christmas, but of course are not in a position to buy anything. Therefore a few such items can go a long way to assissting them.

So, in closing today and to reiterate; the real Hot Cakes of the day were:-
Adult Jumpers/Cardigans, especially for men
If you are wondering what to make over the next few weeks, that list should get you started.

From a very tired, but emotionaly fulfilled Kate (T.O.O.), I will be touch again soon.

Monday, November 1, 2010

HCD Countdown - 2 Days to Go 01/11/10

Hi All,

Things are beginning to ramp up ready for this year's November HCD in Brisbane. The bags are being packed, the cars are being loaded, journey start times have been decided.

Peter (our esteemed leader's husband)'s truck is bursting at the gunwales, with excess bags being passed over to Rene and Angela and Ron and Claire. It is a good job that there are some men around to do the muscle work for us, and a lot of the driving. Tomorrow (Tuesday) they will be heading down to the RNA Showgrounds to drop off the majority of the stuff, and ensure that we have enough table space to put everything out. Then on Wednesday morning, we really only have to turn up, nice and early, to do the last minute organising, and we ready to meet and greet when it opens at 08:00hrs.

So far, there are approximately 2,000 items ready to go. No doubt more will turn up on the day. A few of our members come along with donations at the last minute. Any items that are left at the end of the day go to other organisations that attend this wonderful event. They then take these back for their clients to give to them directly.

I will post a report as soon as possible after Wednesday to let you all know how it went.


Kate (T.O.O.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

HCD Countdown - 6 days to go. 28/10/10

Hi All,

We are now on the countdown to Brisbane's next Homeless Connect Day. Less than one week to go. Next Wednesday will be one of the most uplifting and exhausting days of the year.

It is again going to be held at the RNA Showgrounds, in Building 10, while the City Hall is being refurbished. We will be one of many organisations and community groups that will be attending to work with those who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or without secure accommodation. As well as community groups and organisations, many individuals also give up their time to provide medical care, legal advice, assistance with finding accommodation, personal grooming and clothes both new and pre-loved.

I don't know about you, but 4 years ago, if you had asked me what your "typical homeless person" was like, I would have said:- Male, single, 18-40, probably with a drug or alcohol problem, and chooses to be homeless. In reality, this group make up a very small proportion of the homeless population. Only about 2% of people categorised as homeless are addicted to alcohol or drugs, and less than 1% would turn down accommodation if they were offered it. Of the 100,000 people estimated to be homeless in Australia today,  99,000 of them are crying out for a stable, permenant home. A large proportion of these are young families. I was shocked to see, at my first HCD, just how many babies and young children are unwittingly caught up in this problem.

When it comes to K4BN, our stock in trade at HCD is beanies, scarves and blankets. Those emergency items that keep people as warm as possible if they are having to sleep on the streets or in a car. Socks have also become a favourite as we were informed that if your head, hands and feet are warm, the rest of you is warm too. We also have a stock of jumpers and cardigans for all ages, babies to adults. However, we always need more of these larger, and therefore more costly and time consuming to make items. Especially adult jumpers.

Personal hygiene can also be an issue if you have no home, so we make up toiletry bags with donated items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap (individually wrapped for safety reasons), shampoo and conditioner. For legal reasons as well as safety, we may not give out razors.

One of the most challenging things about HCDs is convincing clients that our items are gifts, that they are free, there is no charge. It is hearbreaking to see someone skirting around our tables because they don't realise we give out these items for free. The look of shock that crosses someone's face when the realisation hits them, and then the look of wonder as that realisation sinks in, are what make it all worthwhile. Attending a HCD can be a harrowing experience, and usually many tears are shed during the day. However, that all fades into insignificance when you see the look of joy on a face that a moment ago was guarded and suspicious.

So if you are coming along next week, bring your hankies, and be prepared to be mentally exhausted by the time you go home. We expect to give out about 2,500 items between 09:00hrs and 14:00hrs. We also expect to have heard some sad stories. We hope to hear some stories that are uplifting and bring tears of joy instead of sadness. Afterwards, you will be much more likely to remember the joyous moments, rather than the sad.

Just for Bunty, here is the photo taken at the Beenleigh Knit and Natter Christmas Party 2008. (Our esteemed leader Karen is the one with her dress hitched up around her knickers!!!)

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Knitting Class in a Hat 23/10/10

Hi all,

Yesterday was one of those quiet days from a K4BN point of view, i,e, there was no Knit & Natter anywhere. I didn't see our esteemed leader Karen yesterday, but I don't think there were visits to either collect or deliver donations. Sometimes it seems that there is something happening every day. I am sure if I studied the calendar, I would see that there are more days without Knit and Natters than there are with. I certainly don't go to every single one, and neither does Karen, though she gets to a lot more than me. There just aren't enough hours in the day to do everything, or enough petrol in the tank, both phyisically and metaphorically.
As it was a quiet day, this morning I was wondering what to write. I starting thinking about when I joined the group. Having run out of walls on which to hang framed Cross Stitch, and sent off a couple of knitting articles to the little girl I sponsor in Nepal, I was looking for another outlet. I can't just sit and do nothing with my hands. Being a member of Free Cycle, I came across a posting for knitting materials and phoned up to ask for them, only to discover they had gone to a group called Knitting for Brisbane's Needy. "Who are they??" I asked myself. It didn't take me long on the internet to find them, and so began my involvement with this wonderful group. I went along to my first Knit and Natter at Caboolture Library.
Now comes the story of the nickname!!
"I'm Kate" says I as I introduce myself. "Ah, you are the lady with Dexter"....... "What is a 'Dexter'?" I ask myself. I know as a New Australian there are certain idioms with which I am not instantly familiar, but a 'Dexter'????? It turns out that there is another member called Kate, who has an assistance dog, who goes by the name of Dexter. "No, I am Kate, The Other One" became my new refrain, soon to be shortened in written form to Kate (T.O.O.). So now you know!!
Having left all of my knitting patterns in the UK when we emigrated here, coz let's face it, it is too hot in Australia to need knitted items, I had to start looking for things to make for the group. The internet became my friend. I was told about "Knitting Pattern Central" a web site with hundreds of free downloadable (when did that become a verb??) patterns. http://www.knittingpatterncentral.com/directory.php . My very first download, and therefore item that I made for the group was http://alison.knitsmiths.us/pattern_beginners_hat.html . I won't reproduce the pattern here, I don't want to upset Alison Hansel. But have a look, it is very well written. I had knitted in the round before, on DPNs, so stuck to what I knew ignoring the circular needle bit, and playing around with needle size and wool to get the right gauge didn't take too long. As I was told by another member, size isn't really important, whatever you make is going to fit someone, and that someone will be very grateful for your efforts. 
If you are not familiar with knitting in the round, give it a go. It is a lot less daunting than it looks. If you are not ready to take the plunge, knit in the flat, and then just seam it. It will still look great, and keep someone's head warm on a cold night. If you do have a go, and make this, and are also feeling altruistic, we can find somewhere for your generosity to be appreciated. Just send it to us.
This is the second post since I promised Bunty I would put up a photo of the 2008 Christmas Party held by the Beenleigh Knit and Natter. Sorry Bunty, I have renegaded again. Next time.
Kate (T.O.O.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Visit to St. Peter's Lutheran College 21/10/10

Originally I had planned to accompany our esteemed leader Karen, and her husband Peter, on a visit to St Peter's Lutheran College on the south side of Brisbane, but at the last minute I couldn't make it. Rats!!!! I missed out on a really good day, and some heart lifting moments. As I wasn't there, it seems silly to try to write about it myself, so here, in the words of Karen is what happened.
"Peter and I today went to visit some students and the Drop in Centre for Parents at St Peters Lutheran College. We had been invited from one of our members Lia, who co-coordinates the Drop In Centre.
Lia had told me that they had lots of donations made not only by the parents, but some by the Year 9 Christian Studies group. When we walked in a lot of the ladies were still setting up tables with all the donations from them. Heaps of different items , blankets, beanies, scarves, prem beanies, toys etc....all  beautifully done.

On another table were the things the Year 9 class had made. I was expecting squares for a blanket, but no, Lia had done up "looming kits" for them, complete with instructions, photos etc. These young people had made prem baby beanies, baby beanies, larger beanies, scarves etc, on the looms. Even boys!! One lad I stood next to for one of the "many" photos that were taken was holding 3 prem baby beanies that he had made. I commented that there would be 3 very happy mums of premmie baby's who would just love what he had made for their babies. He looked at me and said "Really, I didn't think you would want them, they aren't good". I told him they were perfect, which was true, they were gorgeous. The children could only be with us for a quick morning tea and I was able to explain a bit more about the group, what we do, and the sort of people we help. Most of them seem very motivated to keep going to help us help the less fortunate.

Then we sat with all the ladies present (and later Lia's husband joined us and one of the male teachers from the school) and Peter told them all about the group; the type of people we help; told a few "stories" of different ones we have had the privilege of helping and chatting with. Several of the ladies were in tears..I can understand that ...Peter making ladies cry...lol!! But a lot of them were just absolutely amazed at what happens to people especially those who a few months ago were ok, jobs, own house etc. and then for whatever reason, they lose their job, then lose their house....... I think it really opened up some of their eyes. We invited any of them to come to the HCD (Homeless Connect Day), if not to help up give out donations , at least to see what its all about.

As well as all the knitted, crocheted, sewn, loomed items they had for us, they also had lots of craft things which had been made over a number of years for craft stalls they used to run, but haven't for a few years. So they decided to bring all of that today, let teachers know that there would be things for sale, so a lot of teachers came up and had a look (and bought) mainly during their free time!!

We had also picked up the ETSY shop from Kate's this morning which we took along and we made $120 in sales from the ETSY shop too. All the other craft items that were left over, the Drop In Centre donated to the group, to be either sold on ETSY, at a market stall or for us to give to organisations for Christmas
But that's not the end of it...there were bags of fabric for our "dressmakers"; toiletries...all sorted into  separate bags for shampoos, another one for toothpaste!!
Lia had told me that they had a donation of new wool for us. A couple of the ladies and one of their mothers had all visited Spotlight. She said she thought I would be pleasantly surprised. I saw one big bag of yarn and thought how fantastic BUT then they said, that's not all of it, and moved a divider to reveal at least 6 HUGE bags of wool...Thoroughbred; Moda Vera; Patons etc etc. They estimated there were about 400 balls there...when we got home Melanie (daughter) counted them all and there were ......drum roll ..............
566 balls of brand new yarn for us to distribute to members of the group!!!!

When I saw how much yarn there was, I was overwhelmed and stuck for words and had to turn away as I was crying at their generosity!!

Then to top it all of, quite a few of the parents and teachers have "contacts" in various industries and there is a possibility that we may get a "free" storage unit around the Strathpine area. Nothing set in concrete, but a

Have heard from Lia since we got home, and she said everyone was motivated to do more, even whilst we were there some of the ladies said they really didn't do craft, what else could they help us with....so we said toiletries, then when I was talking quietly to two of them, it got around to postage, newsletters that we try to get out every so often etc, so they said that they would see what they could do re donatings stamps, postpacks, paper for the newsletters to be printed out on.

On top of all that, they put on a lovely morning tea and we were asked to bring some of the leftovers home! Including a big gingerbread heart that one of the ladies had brought at the Octoberfest last weekend, but no one had touched it! I love gingerbread, so that's my treat for the next few days... lol.

So we came home, very very happy with all that was donated to us, especially the yarn, still keep looking over it and not believing it! But also feel drained...emotionally, mentally etc!!

To the parents, teachers and particulary the Yr 9 students for all they have done, and hopefully will continue to do!!

Sorry another "novel", didn't mean it to be this long!!

Karen (who is very happy, but very tired!)"
What else can I say??? Kate (T.O.O.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Caboolture's Tuesday Knit and Natter 19/10/10

Hi All,

It isn't quite time to start cooking the dinner, as I don't know what train hubby will be on tonight yet, so I have time to sit and muse about this afternoon's Knit and Natter at Caboolture. On the third Tuesday of each month, we meet at the RSL Retirement Village in Caboolture, making use of their great sun room, right next to the Bowling Green. Today being a warm sunny day, we had the doors open to let in a fabulous cool breeze.

A quick mental count up tells me that there were 14 of us in attendance today, plus a couple of quick 'pop in, say hello and then disappear' visits. It was also Patricia's birthday, so of course we had to help her celebrate by eating all her cake!! White mud cake, yum!!

"Show and Tell" as always was interesting. I love to see what other people are making. The colour combinations that others come up with, are something I would never think of myself, yet look fantastic in the finished product. Today we were fascinated by a couple of cardigans for a small child. At first glance you thought it was made up entirely in moss stitch, but on closer inspection, it wasn't quite. We decided in the end to call it 'extended moss stitch' and I really must find out who had dropped them off, as I would love to know if it has a real name. Whatever, they looked great.

Some of the blankets that had been donated were also a treat. The amount of work that goes into making a single bed size blanket is not insignificant. Then to spend the time and effort to make it a work of art at the same time just blows my mind. Single bed size is really the smallest size that is viable for someone living on the streets. Any smaller, and there are too many gaps that let in cold air when someone tries to wrap themselves up. The temperatures over the past few days have been unseasonally cool here in SEQ, so blankets are still much in demand.

Today I proudly presented an adult jumper made by 'Moi', that incorporated grafting for the first time. Instead of casting off the shoulder stitches, and then seaming the shoulder, I used grafting, or Kitchener Stitch. I have never used this method before, and while not perfect, I was very pleased with the effect. Thank you so much to June for all her encouragement in getting me to take the plunge. Before I joined this group, I thought of myself as an experienced knitter, but I can't believer how much I have learned since then. Between June and the internet, I had a bash. If you have never tried grafting, have a look at http://www.knittinghelp.com/videos/knitting-tips . June herself was knitting in 3ply. Now, there is patience for you.

Anyway, hubby has just sent his daily text msg to tell me what train he is on, so at some time soon I will start to cook dinner.

Talk to you soon. Kate. (T.O.O.)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The First Blog from Knitting 4 Brisbane's Needy (K4BN)

Good Afternoon all, and welcome to the Knitting for Brisbane's Needy Blogspot.

Knitting for Brisbane's Needy was started in Jan 2006 by Karen Croke from the Glass House Mountains area of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland in Queensland, Australia.
Karen, and a couple of her friends noticed that the homeless of Queensland were getting a raw deal. "Charities have told us how much new clothing would be appreciated as people don't tend to donate warm clothing for Queensland's needy as they think it doesn't get cold enough here, but it does especially for those living on the streets in the cold and wet. They also like to be able to give some NEW items to the needy as it boosts their self confidence."
Thus started what has become a phenomenom. From those small beginnings, now over 400 members regularly contribute "new, handmade" items that go all over Queensland and beyond. Where-ever a need is perceived, K4BN is ready to help in whatever small way it can. From Beanies, Scarves and Gloves for the homeless, to burial outfits for babies born "sleeping".

We have been trying recently to think of ways to raise our profile in order to generate more funds. As the need for what we do seems to grow on a daily basis, so does the strain on our limited funds. The cost of yarn never seems to go down, and a lot of our members live on pensions themselves. In order to continue providing new, warm items of clothing to those in need, we need to be able raise money to purchase yarn.

We have set up an online shop that sells items specifically made for that purpose. It costs money to post items on the shop, so the "stock" available may not appear great in number, but there is much more where that came from. Please visit our shop at http://www.etsy.com/shop/K4BNFundRaiser. All money raised here goes directly to funding our efforts.

Not only do we need to purchase yarn, we also need to get completed items to those who need it, so travel and 'cartage' costs feature strongly in our outgoings. Therefore, any offers of free space in courier trucks, or private cars travelling around Queensland would be gratefully received.

We are in regular contact with numerous charities and community groups in the Greater Brisbane area. We donate items to them for their clients on the strict understanding that all items are given to clients FREE OF CHARGE. No item intended for a disadvantaged person is to be sold. In future posts we will give you a bit of an insight into the work done by some of these groups.

A great initiative by the Brisbane City Council is their Homeless Connect Day, run twice a year since November 2006. K4BN has been a regular contributor since March 2007. At each Homeless Connect Day we have attended so far, we have given out approximately 2,500 new items. These include beanies, scarves, jumpers, personal care packs and blankets. You can learn more about Brisbane City Council's Homeless Connect Day at http://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/community-support/housing-and-homelessness/homeless-connect/index.htm. It has proved to be so sucessful that the idea has been adopted by the Gold Coast and Ipswich, as well as Sydney.

We will also be posting photos of some of the things we make, we will also be telling you a bit about ourselves, our get togethers that have been fondly entitled "Knit and Natters". It has to be said, that at some of these, there is an awful lot more nattering than knitting done. Not only are they are great way for us to meet and chat, but they act as a central point to drop off donations and collect any yarn that may be available for distribution to our members, who now number over 400 by the way!!

Peter, our esteemed leader Karen's husband jokingly set us a target at the beginning of 2010 to reach 20,100 donations by the end of the year. At the last count, we were not far below that total, and with just over 2 months still to go, we look like we are going to reach that figure.

So folks, watch this space. I am new to blogging, so this is a WIP, and if it looks a bit rough around the edges, that is because it is!! I will be learning as I go, and at the same time hopefully telling you all about our group and the work that we do. 

Kate (T.O.O.) which stands for 'the other one' which I will tell you about at a future date!!