Woman crowdsources blankets for homeless with ‘Squares of Warmth’

Human Interest

Volunteer group accepting 8"x8" knitted or crocheted squares to assemble blankets for the homeless

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — One woman is calling on volunteers to help assemble yarn squares and turn them into blankets to help out folks in Portland experiencing homelessness.

Crystal Read of Portland’s Lents neighborhood said she started the project about two years ago after leading volunteer efforts as part of her church to serve those living on the streets and noticing the need waiting to be filled.

“We would take the youth out to serve the homeless. And one thing that we never really had enough of was blankets,” she said.

Volunteers hold up an American flag blanket to be donated to a veteran in a transitional housing centers, Veterans Village in Clackamas. The effort is part of ‘Squares of Warmth,’ coordinated by founder Crystal Read (right). September 15, 2019 (courtesy Crystal Read).

Now, Crystal has put together a Facebook page, called Squares of Warmth, where she asks community members for crocheted or knitted 8×8 inch squares which she then gets assembled into blanks to help the homeless. It is part of As Is Church’s homeless relief ministry, where the church direct delivers the blankets–along with other supplies like clothing and food–to those most in need.

Crystal said the response from the public has been mostly positive.

“People are pretty excited about it. A lot of people want to help and get involved. A lot of people like what we’re doing,” she said.

So far, they’ve made 139 blankets. Crystal said it would be much more, but the novel coronavirus pandemic slowed the process down a bit. She’s since added a second drop-off location to help streamline the process. In addition, the received squares are quarantined for a few days before they are handled and the same is done to the completed blankets before they’re sent out, Crystal said.

Crystal Read set up a little self-serve ‘library’ for yarn supplies and to drop off squares for her project that serves the homeless, ‘Squares of Warmth.’ November 1, 2020 (courtesy Crystal Read).

Anyone interested in dropping off a completed square can do so at As Is Church’s Hope Center at 6828 SE Holgate Blvd. or in the little library box posted directly in front of the Reads’ house at 5246 SE 104th Ave. The library box is also where you can pick up or donate supplies like yarn or crochet hooks. The squares are can be any pattern or color as long as they are 8×8 inches.

Squares of Warmth also delivers blankets to veterans at Veterans Village in Clackamas, a transitional housing center, and to wildfire evacuees.

“She does make a few red, white and blue blankets as we get red, white and blue squares in and she makes a little flag in there,” explained Crystal’s husband, Matt Read, on the American-flag-themed blankets they provide to veterans.

Crystal said the group is accepting donations of yarn, crochet hooks, knitting needles and “we can use help with sewing from time to time.”

You can contact Squares of Warmth via their Facebook page, email, or call or text at 503-781-1138.

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