In 2017, Jill Bridges suffered a tragedy when her oldest child, a non-binary teenager, died. To survive her grief, she started Eco-Friendly Crafts, a craft store offering safe and eco-friendly alternatives to art supplies. It’s through her business that in 2021, she found a way to honor her child’s legacy by using knitting to care for LGBTQ youth.
While listening to the Craft Industry Alliance podcast, she came across an episode in which Cecilia Nelson-Hunt discusses diversity and inclusion in the fiber industry and her role with Knit the Rainbow.
Knit the Rainbow is a New York-based nonprofit that strives to provide winter clothing to homeless LGBTQ youth in the city. There are approximately 8,000 young LGBTQ people (ages 12-24) in New York City and only enough beds for 350 of them. As soon as she heard about the organization, Bridges knew it was a perfect way to honor her child’s legacy.
“My kid was a theater geek, and his dream was to work on tech backstage on Broadway, so I knew it was the perfect match for what I could do to honor my kid,” he said. she stated. Voice of Georgia. “Most children are homeless because their families aren’t supporting them, and it breaks my heart that I can’t be a mother to everyone and take them in.”
So she did the next best thing. It brought together community volunteers, ranging from young mothers to grandmothers, who met once a week to knit and crochet gloves, mittens, socks, scarves, hats, earmuffs and sweaters. The group had a goal of knitting 100 garments last year and they surpassed it in just a few months. This year they have expanded their group and their goal is now 300 garments.
Not only is the group making a tangible difference for young LGBTQ people in New York, but it has also had an impact on Bridges.direct community.
“It’s created a lot of opportunities for us in the community to be able to talk about this issue, especially to an older generation that doesn’t understand it like younger people do,” she said.
To reach its goal, the Knit the Rainbow group of Bridges needs everyone on the bridge. People who want to help can do so in different ways, even if they don’t know how to knit.
“They can donate directly to Knit the Rainbow, it’s a non-profit organization,” she said. “Locally we really need help if someone knows how to crochet and knit. If they don’t know how to do it, we will teach them for free. If they don’t want to do this but want to help physically, we still need help wrapping the yarn and adding pom poms, so hands are always welcome. They can also sponsor a skein of yarn by purchasing one from us. We also accept donations of any type of yarn, [not just eco-friendly]we are not picky about donations.
To get involved, email Eco-Friendly Crafts at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit them in store (2001 Lawrenceville Suwanee Rd., Ste. 104). For more information about Knit the Rainbow, visit knittherainbow.org.