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How One Teacher Cares for Kids through Crafting & Fundraising

Nettie & Friends grew out of a teacher’s concern for her students. Today, she wants you to help her make sure these elementary students have everything they need to succeed

It’s an unfortunate fact that in many communities around the United States, far too many children go without proper nutrition due to poverty that programs like food stamps cannot always fully eradicate.

One teacher who faced such an issue at the school where she taught took it upon herself to offer a solution.

In 2002, a Minnesota special education kindergarten teacher named Nettie grew concerned when the school district cut funding that had paid for milk for the kindergarten students. So Nettie created hot pads and sold them in a local cafe to raise money to supply milk for the children.

Remarkably, her fundraising efforts were enough to supply milk for every kindergarten student at Maxfield Magnet School in St. Paul for the remainder of the school year!

Nettie & Friends - Nettie in a cozy cowl
Nettie herself, in a cozy cowl!

This was the beginning of what was called “Nettie’s Milk Fund.” But that wasn’t the end of the story…

The Journey from Nettie’s Milk Fund to Nettie & Friends

The encouraging thing about so many charities that begin from grassroots is how they grow when generous folks hear of them. This is precisely what happened with Nettie’s Milk Fund; when people heard of it, they wanted to contribute, too.

Enough donations were offered that Maxfield could offer not only milk, but also hot lunches. And not just for kindergartners; every student in the school was able to enjoy hot lunches, all thanks to the Nettie’s Milk Fund that turned into the Nettie’s Nutrition Fund!

Encouraged by this success, Nettie expanded her fundraising offerings. To her hot pads she added aprons, pillowcases, and pillows. Her fundraising continued to grow in its success, and before long, the school had enough funds for offerings aside from food–things like classroom supplies and field trips.

Nettie & Friends - Sale of the Season
Sale of the Season
Thank you to Nettie & Friends for this and all other photos on this page!

Four years after starting her venture, she moved from a cafe to a restaurant, Egg and I, where her fundraising efforts continue to this day.

Nettie’s friend Marsha had assisted her in her fundraising from the beginning. In 2007, a year after their sale moved to Egg and I, Marsha said the words that changed everything:

“You know, Nettie, you have friends who would help you with this.”

History of Nettie & Friends – Nettie & Friends (nettieandfriends.org)

And then, the fundraising became known as Nettie & Friends, as Nettie’s friends indeed joined in.

In 2009, Nettie & Friends was organized as a non-profit, so donations offered could be tax-deductible. And over 15 years later, it’s still going strong!

A slideshow of one of Nettie & Friends’ earliest sales

Nettie & Friends Today

Happily, Minnesota now has guaranteed free lunch and breakfast for all students. Therefore, today Nettie & Friends focuses their efforts on classroom supplies, field trips, and other special activities for the school.

Some of these include:

Nettie & Friends - gingerbread house building
Gingerbread house building
  • Sponsoring an ice cream truck for back-to-school night
  • Purchasing an online school subscription for a teacher resource store and a subscription for student learning
  • Sponsoring all kindergarten classes in annual gingerbread house building
  • Offering celebrations and family nights
  • Offering a Uniform Closet so that students always have clothes available when they need them (including a constant stock of underwear and socks)
  • Start-up Funds for new teachers so they can set up their classrooms as they wish

The truly remarkable thing about the Nettie & Friends fund is its two-pronged approach. They start by making sure students are properly clothed, so that embarrassment about lack of proper clothing isn’t an obstacle to learning.

Then, they take that additional step by providing teachers with the tools and supplies they need to engage their students and encourage their learning.

Nettie & Friends ice cream truck
Ice cream truck for back-to-school night

Your Knitting Can Help! Here’s How

Because you’re a knitter, you can offer your assistance to Nettie & Friends’ fundraising efforts!

Nettie & friends - knitted earwarmers

Their primary fundraiser is their Sale of the Season. This sale runs annually during the month of December, but year-round they accept not only monetary donations but also handcrafted items.

You can take a look at the many beautiful items they sell on their Facebook page.

Nettie told me that they are looking for smaller items that they can price in the $20-$40 range. Scarves, she says, tend to sell especially well.

Nettie & friends - chicken coasters

If you live in or near Minnesota and have a heart for kids, and you love knitting beautiful things to sell, this is such a wonderful opportunity to make a difference! (And if you have other crafting friends, you can invite them to join you!)

Interested? Head to the Nettie & Friends Volunteer page. Here you’ll find the email address that you’ll write to and offer your services. At this page you’ll find other volunteer opportunities that may interest you and/or your friends.

And if you don’t live in or near Minnesota? Why not consider some of the ways in which you might be able to help a school district near you with your knitting?

Special thanks to Nettie for the information about this wonderful charity, and for all the delightful photos you see here!

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