Stitches from the Heart
A tiny newborn baby sent home from the hospital wearing little more than a diaper. That’s the image Kathy Silverton couldn’t let go of eight years ago when her twelve-year-old daughter, Shane, told her about an article she’d read claiming many American babies born into poverty begin their lives without even a shirt on their little backs. The story touched something deep inside the California mom, who immediately picked up her knitting needles and began to knit. But it wasn’t until a short blurb about her charity work ran in the Los Angeles Times that Kathy’s mission took on a life of its own. Within days after the story hit the stands, over one hundred women contacted Kathy asking to help.
Today Kathy is the founder and president of Stitches from the Heart, a recognized 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization whose main mission is to help families in need. The organization now boasts ten thousand volunteers, who send their handmade baby and toddler items to Stitches from the Heart, based in Santa Monica. The items are packed, fifty to a box, and sent to over 432 hospitals and charities across the country. A quarter of a million hats and booties have been sent to needy kids.
In its formative stages, Stitches took over three rooms in the Silvertons’ home. And no wonder. The charity was shipping and receiving approximately two thousand baby items a week. Not only was finding space a problem, but running the thriving organization in a residential neighborhood meant logistics dilemmas, as well. Determined to find a better place to conduct business, Kathy subleased a storefront and opened the Stitches from the Heart Yarn Shoppe on April 1, 2004.
Although the babies and their families are the obvious beneficiaries of Stitches from the Heart, Kathy says she’s convinced the volunteers receive something even more profound when they knit a tiny cap or sweater: a sense of accomplishment and purpose knowing they are contributing to a better world. Because of this unexpected offshoot, Stitches from the Heart donates yarn, needles and supplies to over ninety-two retirement communities for seniors who cannot afford to purchase their own materials. Yet the money to provide the supplies is getting harder to come by in the past few years, Kathy says. In the beginning, yarn retailers and manufacturers often donated crates of yarn, but now with the recent crafts and knitting boom, the stores are selling more and donations are drying up.
While running a charity as busy as Stitches from the Heart has its frustrations and challenges, it’s the letters from volunteers and the hospital nurses that help Kathy stay focused. Over the years she has received letters from elderly women who felt the world had forgotten about them, but have since found new hope and purpose through Stitches. She has also received letters from cancer survivors who tell her their volunteer work for Stitches from the Heart helped them face their darkest days while in treatment.
When Kathy hears these stories all the hard work seems worthwhile. And she admits Stitches from the Heart never would have happened without the dedication of her volunteers, some of the "nicest people in the world."