In 2017, Jill Bridges experienced tragedy when her eldest child, a nonbinary teenager, passed away. To survive her grief, she launched Eco-Friendly Crafts, a craft store offering safe, Earth-friendly alternatives to art supplies. It was 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 stumbled upon 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 nonprofit based in New York City that works to provide winter garments to the city’s homeless LGBTQ youth population. There are an estimated 8,000 LGBTQ youth (ages 12 to 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 their dream was to work on tech behind the scenes on Broadway, so I knew it was the perfect match for what I could do to honor my kid,” she told Georgia Voice. “Most of the kids are homeless because their families don’t support them, and it breaks my heart that I can’t be a mom to all of them and take them in.”
So, she did the next best thing. She gathered community volunteers, ranging from young moms to grandmothers, who would meet once a week to knit and crochet gloves, mittens, socks, scarves, hats, ear warmers, 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’ve expanded their group, and their goal is now 300 garments.
Not only is the group making a tangible difference for LGBTQ young people in NYC, it has also impacted Bridges’ direct community.
“It has created a lot of opportunities for us in the community to be able to talk about this issue, especially to an older generation who don’t understand it like the younger ones do,” she said.
To reach their goal, Bridges’ Knit the Rainbow group needs all hands on deck. There are a variety of ways people who want to help can — even if they don’t know how to knit.
“They can donate directly to Knit the Rainbow, it’s a non-profit,” she said. “Locally, we definitely need help if anybody knows how to crochet and knit. If they don’t know how, we’ll teach them for free. If they don’t want to do that but want to physically help, we always need help with winding yarn and adding pompoms, so hands are always welcome. They can also sponsor a skein of yarn by buying one from us. We also accept donations of any kind of yarn, [not just eco-friendly], we’re not picky when it comes to what’s donated.”
To get involved, email Eco-Friendly Crafts at email@example.com or visit them in-store (2001 Lawrenceville Suwanee Rd., Ste. 104). For more information on Knit the Rainbow, visit knittherainbow.org.