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Urbana residents knit for a better cause


When SNUGGLES founders Jennifer Millay and Dana Pratt visited South Africa in 2010, they saw a need and resolved to meet it. Now, three years later, their effort to provide children in poverty-stricken areas in South Africa with blankets is continuing to grow.

SNUGGLES — Supporting Needs of the Underprivileged through Generous Gifts of Love in Every Stitch — is an Urbana-based mission that has made more than 26,000 knitted and crocheted squares to send to day cares in impoverished townships of Johannesburg, South Africa. The women that run the day cares there turn these hand-made squares into blankets.

“It’s a good way for the women in (South Africa) to be involved and be a part of the process,” Pratt said. “It gives them the ability to contribute for the children there.”

Depending on the size, 26,000 squares can make 650 to 1,000 blankets, Pratt said.

“We hope to provide enough blankets so that no small child goes cold,” Millay said. “Not many people know that the temperatures in South Africa get down to freezing and many of these children are sleeping on cold cement floors. Often times, they don’t have a reliable heat source, so a blanket becomes a valuable commodity.”

To help fill the need, SNUGGLES hosts stitch-a-thons, where people of the community are invited to come learn more about the project and help create the squares.

The group celebrated the one-year anniversary of the stitch-a-thon Sunday at the Bible Education Center in Urbana. There are two more planned for Nov. 17 and Dec. 15.

“Everybody is invited to come and you don’t even need any experience knitting or crocheting because we will teach you how to,” Millay said. “We also have supplies available, and it’s a time for us to get the community involved and together.”

SNUGGLES member Char Sons got involved with the project simply because she liked to crochet.

“A lot of the women here, like me, knit and crochet, and they are always looking forward to engaging in more projects,” Sons said. “I think that this is a great way to be able to do that and also give back.”

To reduce the cost of sending the hand-made squares to South Africa, they find volunteers traveling to Johannesburg to take a suitcase filled with the unfinished blanket.

The cost for air travelers carrying a suitcase is only $75 in comparison to the $1,000 it would cost for them to ship it from Urbana, Pratt said.

So far, Millay said they have sent 19,000 of the squares and plan to send more every couple of months depending on how many people are traveling to South Africa.

“A lot of people in our community want to give back and make some sort of impact,” Millay said. “SNUGGLES gives them that opportunity to contribute and it doesn’t take very much effort. It’s a great means to do good.”

Julianne can be reached at [email protected]

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