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Scarves With A Purpose!

Knitting Scarves for the Homeless and Deserving
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A "Tight-Knit" Community Effort!

Scarves Donated to Date!

Knitted by hundreds of knitters in the Chicagoland area,
and from around the United States, and Canada!

Ready. Set. Knit. Donate!

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Recommended Scarf Specifications

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To Learn More About SWAP


Scarves, and scarf-knitting and crocheting supplies, have been graciously donated by people from:

Northbrook, IL; Santa Barbara, CA; Tampa Bay, FL;  Millegeville, GA ; Boston, MA; Deerfield, IL; New York, NY; Grand Rapids, MI; Sacramento, CA; Chicago, IL; Gurnee, IL; Oreland, PA; Missouri; Barrington, IL; Arlington Heights, IL; Del Ray Beach, FL; Decherd, TN; Maryland; Ft. Myers, FL; Honolulu, Hawaii; Harvest, AL; Richmond, VA;  Orland Park, IL; Grove City, OH; Ann Arbor, MI; Durham, New Hampshire; Champaign, IL

... where next?!

Charities of Note:

Connections for the Homeless - Serving homeless adults and families and those threatened with homelessness.

Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E.) - Committed to improving the quality of life for Chicago's low-income elderly.

A Safe Place - Providing shelter, court advocacy, referrals and comprehensive counseling programs for victims of domestic violence - women and children.

PADS Crisis Services, Inc. - A not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to Providing Advocacy, Dignity, and Shelter to the homeless in Lake County, Illinois.

Breakthrough Urban Ministries Inc. Men's Services - In Chicago's East Garfield Park, where disinvestment has left the neighborhood devoid of opportunity and full of broken dreams, Breakthrough Urban Ministries is restoring the broken networks of youth and families and empowering adults in the community to achieve self-sufficiency and break the cycle of poverty.

NSO-Tumaini Center - The mission of the NSO Tumaini Center is to be an open door to those in need. The NSO Tumaini Center assists the homeless in gaining the maximum services available from substance abuse and mental health treatment, and other social service agencies and network sources. NSO's NSO Tumaini Center provides substance abuse prevention services, mental health referral services, education, crisis intervention and referral services for individuals who are homeless or disenfranchised.

SWAP Branches:

• Ann Arbor, Michigan

... where next?!

A Special Note to The Sunshine Knitters from Florida who consistently send boxes of scarves to Chicago, a group of young ladies (in their 80s through 101!) who have found joy in knitting/donating – thank you, thank you thank you! You are a very special group of crafters!

The Story of SWAP

"My mom learned to knit from her mom. She was always knitting like crazy, so one day in junior high I asked her to teach me. Then I was knitting like crazy! We started making scarves for family and friends as holiday gifts. After about six months of keeping their necks warm, we realized that there were far more people out there who really needed a hug around the neck - the homeless. We thought we should knit some scarves for those who could use them in this cold Chicago weather. And so it began.

"My friends decided they wanted to learn how to knit, too. One thing led to another, and here we are - everyone's HOOKED!!!!! I now hold monthly S.W.A.P. meetings where all are welcome to knit all night long. Sometimes we have as many as 50 people at one time! Every time a scarf is finished, we roll it up and attach a tag, box it up, and off it goes to a homeless shelter. Sometimes we'll go and knit at another school or a nursing home. Sometimes we even cook and bring dinner to a shelter in Evanston. Now with the web site, we receive yarn and scarves from people far and wide - all working to help Scarves With A Purpose.

"Unfortunately, my grandmother never got to see S.W.A.P. materialize. I know that she somehow knows, though, and is smiling from above.

"I'd be particularly pleased if you'd like to join us in making a difference. To learn more, follow a link on the left side of the page."

- Melanie Hebeisen

News and Noteworthy

by Jodi Hebeisen

January 2014

  • Well, SWAPsters, it's been a very interesting winter! To start, we had a record-breaking year in donations: 2,422 scarves delivered to many places I will mention further down in this post! The outpouring was mostly due to the fact that SWAP was mentioned in the December 2013 issue of Woman's Day magazine! Not a day has passed since November where we haven't received an email or a box of scarves from crafters all across the United States wanting to help! (The magazine comes out earlier than December!) So thank you to all who have participated, especially with our Polar Vortex!
  •  A commanding officer from the Naval Air Station in California reached out to SWAP asking for 20 children's scarves for a holiday party. Of course! Then probing further, they would be delighted to receive 1200 for their entire squadron! We didn't feel we'd be able to fill that order, but coincidentally, two days later, a United States athletic organization (who wishes to remain anonymous) offered up an exact 1200-scarf donation! What are the odds of that? Although they weren't handmade – one of our main principles – we were extremely happy to merge the two requests!
  • Also, merging with Make It Better magazine's Warming Hearts and Hands efforts, SWAP donated 207 scarves to be distributed to area shelters during the holidays. In their Make A Difference section, they requested warm clothing to be donated, so we thought it would be great to match a scarf up with a coat/hat/mittens. They were very grateful to receive the scarves! (Check out for a great online resource.)
Make It Better staff and Jodi Hebeisen modeling SWAP scarves!
Make It Better staff and Jodi
modeling SWAP scarves!
  •  Another exciting merger was with Sam of the Feed the Homless Program at North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, Illinois. Their mission is to prepare, deliver and serve meals to 750 homeless and low-income individuals throughout the Chicago area. This December, a scarf was presented in a gift bag to each person. Lois, the Chairperson and Coordinator of the program, said, "We presented the scarves in holiday gift bags and the guests were so surprised and truly elated to receive them. Many even put them on as they left and went out into the cold winter night. The scarves were beautiful, made with loving care and as you say, were 'a hug around the neck.'" All in all, 335 scarves were distributed by the Congregation between Fourth Presbyterian Church, Debra's Place, and Marguard Center in Chicago. SWAP has made a commitment to continue to provide scarves in the future to add to the warmth of their meals, as "most people there were inadequately dressed for cold weather."
  • An email from Marsha: "HI What a wonderful idea. I would like to know how to send scarves to an elementary school in inter city Columbus Ohio. My daughter teaches there and children come to school with no coats or proper dress for winter. She just said the day before I read about you in Women's Day, 'The kids in my room need neck scarves, maybe I will go to Goodwill and get some.' If you do donate to inter city schools how do we sign up? Thank You for what you are doing God Bless, Marsha"

    While we can't honor every request, it was still early enough in the season to spare 60 scarves, which they were truly appreciative.
  • We also sent nearly 300 to two low-income schools in the Chicago area. If you've heard anything about the weather here this winter, you know we at least helped keep some necks warm!
  • The Ann Arbor branch donated 87 scarves to the Delonis Center in Michigan. Quite a feat, considering their full-time student schedules! They meet once a week at the university to de-stressed from their studies. Seems to work well!
  • Thank you all for a great year. Moving forward, there have been a lot of requests for patterns and sizing. As far as patterns, we really like to leave it up to the crafter, but I will post one suggestion by an incredible knitter, Marion. Just follow the links. Keep on knitting, please. AND STAY WARM!!

January 2013

  • 2012 was a very interesting year for Scarves with a PurposeFor the first time ever, people have actually found our website and REQUESTED that we SEND them scarves!
  •  Hurricane Sandy affected so many on the East Coast, but when they reached out to us, we were prepared to help – 418 scarves were mailed to Stephanie, a PTA mom from Staten Island who explained how so many lost their homes. She was worried about all the children. As soon as I told SWAP members about the situation, they helped with the packaging, shipping, and costs of sending them scarves. We also added some hats, coats and blankets for them, something we don't typically do. After Stephanie distributed the donations, she sent pictures and many emails of gratitude:

SWAP support of Hurricane Sandy victims

SWAP support of Hurricane Sandy victims 

SWAP support of Hurricane Sandy victims  SWAP support of Hurricane Sandy victims  SWAP support of Hurricane Sandy victims

SWAP support of Hurricane Sandy victims SWAP support of Hurricane Sandy victims

  • And here's a Facebook post from another Hurricane Sandy victim whose family lost their entire home. She told Stephanie, "Of all the things we received, the scarves were the best!" (Do you see that she's wearing one?!)

Thanks from Hurricane Sandy victim

  • Another request came out of Springfield, Illinois. They were looking for 100 scarves for a homeless shelter in St. Louis! At this point, we were out of scarves, but once again, our knitters from around the country heard the call and quickly got 76 stitched up for us! Although we missed the mark a little, they were very happy with what we were able to provide on short notice. All in all, a very satisfying experience for all.
  • Also in 2012:
    •  30 scarves were sent to Poland
    •  a dozen were handed out on the streets in Chicago
    •  60 sent to a low-income school in Chicago
    • Our Michigan branch donated 100 scarves in their area.
  • When you add it all up, that's a lot of scarves for one year! Thanks to all our crafters and donators this year! We are truly blesssed.
  • Gearing up for 2013. we've already received close to 200 and it's only mid-January. I feel like we may top our own record. Stay warm, everyone!

February 2012

January 2012

  • I'm soooo happy to report that interest in Scarves With A Purpose is still up – we receive emails almost every day from knitters around the country. Knit on!!!
  • And this just in from our Michigan branch: They just donated 90 scarves to "Camp Take Notice." Thanks, Michigan! For more info about Camp Take Notice go to:

December 2011

  • 356 scarves went to Portage Park School, Connections for the Homeless in Evanston, and Glenview Youth Services in 2011.
  • The biggest surprise was an email I received from a woman in California who put on an art exhibit at the Roseville Downtown Library: "I was considering doing a show of knitted works (scarves and blankets)," she wrote," and then donating them to the Children's Receiving Home in Sacramento ... it would be great to have participants from [SWAP]!" Well, I thought so, too, so I sent her 15 scarves, which she beautifully dispayed in the library during her "Knit Necessities" show:

The "Knit Necessities" Show The "Knit Necessities" Show The "Knit Necessities" Show The "Knit Necessities" Show The "Knit Necessities" Show

January 2011

  • A Special Request to start off the New Year: Donations of material -- such as yarn and size 11 to 13 needles -- would really come in handy just about now! Email for mailing information.

December 2010

  • 173 scarves were donated to Portage Park Elementary School in Chicago in time for the holidays. The children look forward to our donations every year!
  • On the Michigan front, 10 students from UMich delivered 195 scarves to the NSO-Tumaini Center in Detroit, a homeless shelter. The group still meets every week. For more info, visit their blog!

November 2010

  • 70 students from Glenbrook North High School's club "Smiles and Snacks" hand-delivered 100 scarves on the streets of Chicago and Breakthrough Urban Ministries Inc. Men's Services in Chicago. The reaction from the president of the club:

"There were some interesting stories from some of the people. One family of four told of how they wanted to try to get somewhere warmer like California, somewhere where being homeless would be better. There was also a man in his army fatigues who asked for a tan colored scarf that would match his uniform he claimed to wear daily.

"Everyone was so grateful for the scarves, especially around the holiday. One man thought we were only allowed to give one scarf, so he asked for a pink one for his niece. When he found out he could have two, I think I saw a tear in his eye.

"All in all, it was such a successful day. I am very excited to come home from college next year and see that this has been done again. Your scarves have given a warm, Thanksgiving feeling to these people, and I couldn't thank you enough for doing this."

March 2010

January 2010

October 2009

  • ANOTHER TWO NEW S.W.A.P. BRANCHES HAVE BEEN FORMED! One at the University of Michigan, and another at the University of Illinois. Yes, the girls are growing up and have started new clubs at college! All scarves knitted will be donated locally.
  • We are still getting interested knitters from around the country -- BIG donations from Virginia, Chicago, New York, Georgia, and as always, Florida! Thanks, ever so much.
  • Under the heading of "Happy Birthday to YOU!" our "oldest" knitter just turned 105 this year!

January 2009

  • A NEW BRANCH OF S.W.A.P. HAS BEEN FORMED! A group of knitters in New Hampshire has decided to hand out scarves to the homeless on their streets this month. It has been reported that 55 scarves have been completed and ready to go.

December 2008

  • 65 scarves were donated to the PADS Crisis Center in Libertyville, Illinois.
  • A group of retired ladies in Florida who call themselves The Sunshine Knitters have sent about 65 to date "to help keep our Northern friends warm

November 2008

  • Roughly 50 Glenbrook North High School (Northbrook, Illinois) students handed out 50 scarves to the homeless on the streets of Chicago the day before Thanksgiving. It was the first attempt of physically handing them out and proved to be very successful.

August 2008

  • Close to 500 scarves were received by knitters across the country and from the Friday night meetings and donated to Connections for the Homeless. Dinner was also cooked and served at Hilda's Place.

June 2008

  • 15 knitters go to Norwood Crossing to knit with the elderly.

March 2008

  • 76 more scarves are donated to Connections for the Homeless.

January 2008

  • I'm pleased to announce that the scarves are continuing to roll in -  men's scarves, women's scarves, wool scarves, winter scarves, head scarves ... all sorts of shawls and wraps and scarf-like knitting for the homeless and underserved. Another 200, in fact, were recently added to the total - some from as far away as Alabama! Thanks to everyone who's helping the cause.
  • In other news, I'll be teaching basic and advanced knitting at the house, again this year. So, if you want to learn how to knit, increase your knitting skills, or just enjoy some fun storytelling and conversation, all are welcome to join us, in person, on the last Friday of each month! (Email for details.)
  • Too, I'm now also teaching knitting at St. Norbert's Church, here in Northbrook, Illinois, on the first Tuesday of each month.
  • And, I just finished a class at Glenbrook North High School for the HERO (Home Economics Cooperative Education) class.

March 2007

  • SWAP is alive and well. In fact, we've been receiving scarves for the homeless via mail from some fabulous knitters in California, Florida, and throughout the Chicagoland area - that's 100 more scarves ready to be donated, courtesy of the winter's knitters! Thank you one and all for knitting your Scarves with a Purpose!
  • Too, this summer we'll be doing more soup kitchen work and helping out at the shelter.
  • Stay tuned, volunteers. And keep knitting!

July 2005

  • It's too hot to knit in the summer! Come back when the weather's cooler, yes?!

March 2005

  • Jodi Hebeisen is invited to teach students at Wood Oaks Junior High (Northbrook, District 27) and to talk about SWAP.

February 2005

  • SWAP received a donation of more than 200 skeins of yarn this month to knit and donate scarves.

January 2005

  • SWAP expanded its services to include cooking meals for the residents of Connections for the Homeless in Evanston, Illinois. As an added bonus, 142 knit scarves were delivered to them.

November 2004

  • Connections for the Homeless receives more than 100 scarves from Scarves with a Purpose, benefiting both Hilda's Place shelter residents and the organization's Entry Point program.

November 2004

  • The Northbrook Star (a Pioneer Press newspaper) prominently featured an article on SWAP.

October 2004

  • The knitting club of Maple School (Northbrook, Illinois District 30) joined the SWAP movement. This middle school added an option of  knitting scarves to the list of approved activities for their annual eighth-grade service project.

September 2004

November 2003

  • SWAP donates almost 130 scarves to A Safe Place, a Chicago-area battered women's shelter and PADS, a homeless shelter and soup kitchen in Waukegan, Illinois that serves people throughout Lake County, Illinois.

June 2003

  • First SWAP-meet (knitting party) held for aspiring knitters.

Each scarf comes with a tag that reads:

Scarves With A Purpose

A group of people has been making scarves to let you know someone out there cares about you. Wrap this around your neck and feel the hug and love! This scarf was made especially for you by _____________.

In Loving Memory of "Cookie."

It's time to knit a scarf...and then donate it to Scarves with a Purpose!

It's not just for grandmas anymore!

Ready. Set. Knit. Donate!

the SWAP website is maintained by Barry Zweibel

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Founded in 2003 in loving memory of "Cookie."

                                                                            last updated: March 02, 2014