Last November, in the wake of a Presidential election that she worried would make life harder for the 5,500 already marginalized homeless in Philly, Sara Gatti did what she knew how to do, to help: She knitted. And knitted and knitted.
“I don’t think I did anything else after work for a month,” she says.
Every night after her job at at an architecture firm, Gatti fashioned vibrant homespun scarves, hats and headbands for ProjectHOME’s annual holiday clothing drive. By Christmas, she had recruited a seven-knitter team, dropped off a bag with 24 wintery accessories, and vowed to do even more next time.
This year, the 25-year-old is using her spools of yarn for good again. She has been reaching out to potential volunteers since mid-October, and already, 14 people have joined this year’s initiative. Gatti hopes the holiday giving spirit motivates even more folks to help, especially since she plans to make sweaters and mittens as well this year.
Gatti, who does not consider herself especially political, is a staunch believer that community should be used to create community for those who need it most. That’s why her mission goes beyond just providing cozy apparel. The handmade goods Gatti and her team create hide their real gift: the messages attached to each one, which say things like, “handmade, with love, for you” and “you’re important.”
“If you are homeless, feeling down, and it’s the holidays, you might feel like you don’t have much,” Gatti says. “I hope that people who are getting these items are feeling the love from their communities.”
As she started knitting last year, Gatti called The Citizen’s Social Action Team for advice on where to donate her winter items. Making these connections, to help Philadelphians make their city better, is part of our mission. We connected her with ProjectHOME, which said it needed scarves, hats and headbands.
ProjectHOME spokeswoman Laura Weinbaum says grassroots involvement and community engagement, like Gatti’s, is crucial to helping the homeless in Philly. It is often residents who connect the homeless in their neighborhoods to ProjectHOME. “The citizens are our eyes and ears,” Weinbaum says, adding that the nonprofit relies on individuals and private organizations for both funding and hands-on support. “We usually ask individuals to donate, advocate, and volunteer. We have hundreds of volunteers who help make what we do possible.”
Gatti and her knitting team are just a few of those volunteers. But they are busy, handcrafting one warm wintry good a time, reaffirming the humanity of homeless Philadelphians by stitching them words of love: You matter.Photos by Sabina Louise Pierce