Project Warm-up volunteers run short of materials

Holli Calder-Cox has the volunteers.

What Project Warm-up's director doesn't have are the yarn, fleece and flannel for volunteers to knit, crochet and sew hats and other items to help keep some Tri-Citians warm.

The lack of materials comes after the program spent almost all year homeless. The all-volunteer program was housed at the Benton Franklin Volunteer Center, but when the nonprofit closed in January 2010, Calder-Cox said the group lost its space.

In October, it was taken in by another nonprofit, Community Action Connections, or CAC, at 720 W. Court St. in Pasco.

CAC was finishing a remodel of its building that opened up some space, allowing Project Warm-up to have an office where Calder-Cox and her 40 volunteers can store items and hold work parties to sort the blankets, baby sweaters and scarves they make.

Janie Gerrard of Pasco, who has volunteered for the project for about 14 years, said they are able to help people of all ages by providing those in need with warm items.

But like the other volunteers, most of whom are seniors, Gerrard said she simply couldn't afford to purchase all the yarn that she crochets into caps, lap robes and small blankets on her limited income.

The group is totally dependent on the community for supplies to continue making warm hats, gloves, blankets and baby clothes for the community's needy, Calder-Cox said.

Gerrard and the other volunteers make about 3,300 items a year, Calder-Cox said. Those items are taken to area nonprofits like Elijah Family Homes, area school districts and hospitals.

Judith Gidley, CAC executive director, said the items help supplement the services CAC provides to needy families in the community.

Sometimes people can't afford gloves, hats and scarves, Gidley said. And some of the blankets given to families moving into a new home may come from the volunteers.

The all-volunteer group is a real tribute to what the volunteer center did under former executive director Cathy Merrill Holle, who now is CAC's Community Services Department director, Gidley said. Every penny given to the project goes directly to materials and supplies.

Some of the purple baby caps given to parents as part of the Period of PURPLE Crying, an effort to educate parents about shaken baby syndrome, at Lourdes Medical Center were provided by Project Warm-up.

Those caps act as reminder for parents that when their children cry or get fussy, it may be a completely normal phase of their development, said Melanie Johnston, Lourdes spokeswoman. Lourdes provides education about shaken baby syndrome to parents in their prenatal classes. Shaking babies can cause them to suffer from head trauma.

Donations like this let families know they have an entire community supporting them, and that can be helpful when facing the scary reality of becoming a new parent, she said.

Project Warm-up is completely out of the purple used for that project and has a small amount of dark-colored supplies. Calder-Cox said the group also needs baby yarn and the soft yarn used for children's items.

It also lacks the red, white and blue yarn needed to make hats for veterans this year, she said.

Donations are tax-deductible. Checks can be mailed to Project Warm-Up, c/o CAC, 720 Court St., in Pasco, and material can be dropped off at the administration office in the building. People should indicate donations are for Project Warm-up.

-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com