Square Circle Forum

This month we are moving to Europe.  Elaine Jones is the author of this truly incredible story of Knit For Life.

Meet the KAS Family – Pam Johnson & Elaine Jones from the Welsh Marches in the UK and their charity, Knit for Life

We both discovered KAS at around the same time – back in 2009 – and ‘met’ each other on the KAS forum.  As we both live in Shropshire, we decided to meet up in person and have been friends ever since.  At that time Elaine was just crocheting and posting a few squares at a time.  Pam, on the other hand, had embraced KAS with all her usual enthusiasm and was collectiing squares from knitters around her local area, posting them to South Africa at her own expense.   The word spread and the trickle of squares soon became a deluge.  We used to pack the squares into 2 kg. parcels which Pam would then take to her local post office.   It didn’t take long for us to realise that this situation couldn’t continue – it was taking too much time and Pam was heading for bankrupcy!

Elaine had had some experience of setting up and running charities so Knit for Life was born.  We received some early donations which helped us enormously, then Elaine researched and found a company that would ship boxes of knitting to South Africa for us at a discount.  

From left to right:  Elaine, Pam and Lynn – our loyal and much appreciated volunteer.

For a while, we stored all the knitting in Pam’s spare bedroom but as the volume increased, we were fortunate to be offered the use of a static caravan as a storeroom by some friends.  The caravan was elderly as you can see:

but it more than served its purpose for several years.  When the roof disintegrated to such an extent that  it became impossible to keep the rain out, our wonderful friends decided to build a garage block, incorporating a ‘shed’ for our exclusive use:

Moving day was hard work but great fun and the Woolshed was soon full to bursting.

Knit for Life was originally established to help us raise funds so we could afford the costs of shipping to South Africa but it has become so much more.  We both realised that people like to knit and find it therapeutic in so many ways but as children and grandchildren grow up the opportunities for knitting become less.  By offering to accept their knitting for distribution to good causes, we can provide a reason for people to knit again.   We don’t really know how many people knit for us but we do know that they all find it rewarding and love being useful.   A lot of the knitting we receive isn’t suitable for KAS but there are many worthy causes and, apart from KAS, our knitting now also goes to local hospitals and care homes as well as Eastern Europe and the Middle East. 

We hold a monthly meeting at a community shop in Oswestry where we ask volunteers to help us sort out the various sized squares we receive and sew in the ‘ends’.  Several of the volunteers happily take home bundles of squares to sew them up into blankets.  One such volunteer is a very energetic great-grandmother who also volunteers in a local charity shop from which she ‘rescues’ soft toys that they don’t sell.  Many of these find their way into the boxes we send to South Africa.  Mona has a good social life and family living nearby but she is widowed and the evenings on her own can seem very long indeed.   Sewing squares into blankets, sometimes piecing together odd-sized squares like a jigsaw, keeps her occupied and gives her a great sense of satisfaction.

We are frequently contacted through our website – www.knitforlife.co.uk –by knitters keen to donate their knitting to us.  We have to restrict the donations we receive, only accepting knitting from people in our local area (apart from a few exceptions) otherwise we would soon be drowning in woolly mayhem!  A recent query came from a lady in South Shropshire who asked if she could donate some jumpers and a blanket to us.  She mentioned that her friend had also made a blanket that she would like us to have.  Her friend had knitted the blanket whilst sitting with her husband as he underwent chemotherapy.   What better way to find occupation, comfort and distraction?

When we’re not collecting knitting or packing up boxes and bundles to send around the world, we have to find the time to raise the funding we need to ship to South Africa and to support Ronda and her team.  We apply for grants whenever they become available and take a stall at least twice a year at local fairs, running Pam’s version of a tombola (don’t ask!).  As a registered charity, we are able to raise funds via EasyFundraising and we receive small donations from supporters from time to time.   Where these are made by taxpayers, we can increase these donations by claiming Gift Aid from the Revenue.  We have just received a cheque, along with about a dozen boxes of knitting, from an Inner Wheel group who have been supporting us almost from the start.    As Ronda knows only too well, fundraising is never easy but we take each day as it comes and our reward is knowing that we are providing a sense of self-worth to our knitters and comfort to impoverished children around the world.

Thank you Elaine for this amazing story.  All of you are a blessing to KAS and your community.  If you are based in a location that can utilize EasyFundraising, please use it to support Knit for Life and KAS.

February 2017 Meet the KAS Family - Ronda Lowrie, South Africa http://forum.knit-a-square.com/forum/topics/meet-the-kas-family

March 2017 Meet the KAS Family - Juli Harrington, Japan http://forum.knit-a-square.com/forum/topics/meet-the-kas-family-mar...

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Amy, thank you for posting this wonderful installment of Meet the KAS Family.  Elaine and Pam you are both very special women, you are responsible for pointing me in the right direction when I first joined KAS..   Without all the help, advice and knowledge you shared with me almost three years ago my group wouldn't be half as successful as it is today.....Thank you for everything.   Your dedication to KAS is amazing and truly heart warming.  I wish you continued success with all that you do.  xx

Elaine, thank you for sharing your success story with us!  You and Pam are doing amazing work and your dedication to helping others is truly inspiring.  Best wishes for the continued success of Knit for Life ... xo

Two incredible ladies who have, and continue to give, so much to 'our' children in SA.

It was good to see a pic of the ol' caravan that I have read about, a little, here and there over the years.

Thank you Elaine (and Pam) for sharing this journey with us..... and thanks to all your wonderful helpers.  :))

You all are certainly making a difference in the lives of many...well done!!! 

I take my hat off to you both for all that you have achieved and all that you do!

Dear Pam and Elaine.  I had heard of the caravan for storing your contributions, however I'm amazed that your friends were so generous to plan to incorporate your needs in their new building. What a godsend to have such support.  And to you both, a big 'Thank you' for your initiative which reaches out and touches so many, in the UK and in South Africa. God bless you in your work.  Humbly, Mili  

Pam and Elaine you are stars !! I had no idea of what went on behind the scenes. You have a wonderful charity and SA is so lucky to benefit from hardworking people like you and your volunteers. Such an inspiring story . Well done Knit for Life !

Elaine and Pam it is great to hear your story, you do so much for KAS and in doing so you are also helping your local community as well. Thank you so much for everything you do very inspiring :))

How lovely to see you and hear about the 'history' of knit for life. It's great when kindred souls meet up to serve a common purpose. So pleased to hear that you don't have to depend on your leaky caravan any more. Well done and thanks for all you do.

A very interesting read.  I admire you no end, having tried to get something similar going in my area - it was too much work for me alone and it all fell through - you are wonderful to keep this in action!

What a wonderful report!  I find stories like this so inspiring.  I'm always amazed at how willing and motivated people are when it comes to knitting for charity.  Elaine, your story of how Knit For Life has grown is utterly heartwarming!

Thanks everyone for your kind comments.  I'm not sure either of us feel particularly amazing; we just do what we can as often as time allows.  What is truly amazing is how much fun we have along the way!

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