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One Way Your Knitting Can Offer Warmth and Comfort to Refugees

Many buses full of refugees enter Chicago every week. Your handmade hats and ear-warming headbands can give them the warmth they need in long, frigid Chicago winters

In August 2023, Margie Chan created 500 Hats for Refugees, acting on a long-felt desire to help folks like her who arrive into the United States as refugees.

Margie told me:

“I am a child of refugees. My parents came to the United States under the American Refugee Act of 1953. My family (parents and three brothers) arrived in Chicago in late December 1955. I was born six months later (my poor mother had seasickness AND morning sickness on the slow boat to this country!).”

In Chicago, Margie watched as thousands of refugees arrived in Texas with little more than the clothes they were wearing. Her goal in launching an initiative that she calls 500 Hats for Refugees was to provide hats for these refugees.

Hats for Refugees 2
Photo: Margie Chan

More information from Margie:

“They are currently being housed in temporary shelters such as police stations, park district buildings, abandoned motels/hotels and even O’Hare Airport. More than 1/3 of the refugees are children under the age of 10. All were facing a Chicago winter for the first time.”

Building a Base of Charity Knitters

Knowing she couldn’t fulfill such a lofty goal alone, Margie reached out to the crafting community, both locally and virtually. She went to local yarn shops and public libraries, as well as Ravelry and Facebook groups (including the Knitting for Charity with Nicole group, which is how I learned of her initiative!).

The response was as astronomical as it is unsurprising, for anyone who knows of the tender hearts of knitters. As of this writing, Margie has received over 1,850 hats from several states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, and Texas.

Hats for Refugees
Photo: Margie Chan

How You Can Help

Margie intends for the 500 Hats for Refugees initiative to be ongoing for two reasons:

  • Chicago winters are long; Margie says they can get snow in April! (As an Ohio native, this does not surprise me in the least.)
  • Busloads of refugees continue to arrive weekly; Margie says they receive up to 25 buses per week.

This means that you can always pitch in and help!

This initiative needs hats, and lots of them, in all sizes; “there’s bound to be a head that will fit a hat!” Margie says. Ear-warmer headbands are popular as well, particularly among youngsters.

She suggests that you use acrylic yarn (or any other machine-washable, hypoallergenic fiber), as both fiber allergies and access to laundry facilities are unknown factors.

Hats for Refugees 3
Photo: Margie Chan

Margie has created Hats & Hot Chocolate events at public libraries, elementary schools, and other venues as close to shelters as possible so that she can distribute hats and headbands to refugees. (The general public is prohibited from bringing supplies into shelters.)

For more information, including where you can send hats and headbands, contact Margie at 500HatsforRefugees@gmail.com.

Offering your handmade hats to 500 Hats for Refugees is a wonderful way to not only provide warmth and comfort to refugees, but also to let folks who have entered the US in search of a safe haven that they are loved and valued as human beings.

500 Hats for Refugees

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