KMITT – Raising awareness about poverty in Calgary through knitting for a cause

The Cause

KMITT (pronounced "MITT") is a community-based knitting circle that helps raise awareness about poverty in Calgary. Its beginning dates back to 2012, when a group of socially conscious community members gathered at Sunrise Community Link Resource Center. They envisioned a social program that would make an innovative and meaningful difference in their community. The group decided to meet every week and knit mittens, toques, and scarves. Their mission was simple: for every knitted and crocheted item sold, another warm pair was donated to someone else in need. This is when the idea behind the social enterprise known as “KMITT” was born.

KMITT has been operating on the same principle for the past five years: for every item created and sold, one will be given to another person in need. From 2016 to 2017, the volunteers knitted and crocheted 295 pairs of mittens, 375 toques, and 91 scarves. The group also produced 65 pairs of slippers and 16 pairs of socks as new additions to the project. KMITT sold $5,875.00 worth of products with 310 KMITT items sold at local markets and pop-up shops. All the proceeds generated from sales are invested back into KMITT in order to keep it self-sustainable.

Who Will it Benefit?

KMITT is mutually beneficial for both community members in need and volunteers who want to give back in a meaningful way. At Sunrise, the majority of the clients accessing our services are in need of food, clothing, housing, and other basic needs. An average of 954 individuals came through our doors every month from 2016 to 2017. This demand was heightened during the colder months when vulnerable community members were unable to afford winter wear for themselves or their family. KMITT was able to provide 310 pairs of winter accessories in order to keep them warm and safe. Community members feel inspired whenever they hear about the mission behind KMITT, since it involves people in the community who have firsthand experience with poverty.

KMITT provides our volunteers with a sense of purpose, accomplishment, and empowers them in a way they never thought was possible. Our volunteers have faced and continue to adversity in their mental and physical health, financial security, and personal relationships. The knitters have been able to foster friendships and build a community. Recently, our volunteers provided emotional support to a member who was confronting an abusive relationship. The volunteers were able to reassure the member that she was not alone. Every item made by KMITT encapsulates that powerful message.

KMITT effectively builds natural connections and support for our knitters. Our volunteers value coming to the weekly knitting circles hosted at Sunrise because they collaborate with community members who are facing similar obstacles as them. For the majority of our volunteers, our knitting circle is one of the only forms of social interaction they experience in a week. One of our volunteers faced terrible anxiety to the point of being unable to leave her house. However, upon hearing about KMITT through a counsellor, she found the courage to come to attend. Her own personal self-esteem and confidence began to flourish. The volunteer connected with another community member and they began working together on projects with one volunteer creating the cuff of a mitt and the other creating the rest. Our volunteers appreciate coming to a space where everyone is welcomed, supported, and accepted.