Those desiring one-of-a-kind holiday stockings this year need look no further than Carrigan Café, which currently has an ample supply of the festive creations hanging from the walls, with all proceeds going to a pair of local charities.
Audrey Schwimmer is a volunteer for the project and she said the idea to make stockings for the benefit of the less fortunate came about ahead of the previous holiday season.
“Last year the owner of The Quilting Season, Mary Lindquist, suggested that we might think about ways in which we could raise funds for Saline Area Social Services and Whitehall retirement center,” she said, indicating both of which help the underprivileged. “We had made stockings for some of the residents of Whitehall last year, so we thought ‘What if we were able to find a location that would allow us to display them and then offer them for a donation that could be made to these two organizations?’”
Schwimmer said she has been friends with Karen Carrigan, owner of Carrigan Café, for years and figured she would likely jump at the chance to help out a worthy cause..
“I know Karen from when she worked at the Drowsy Parrot and we used to frequent there,” Schwimmer said. “And so I asked her if she would be interested in that and she said, ‘Absolutely,’”
Once they had the go-ahead, Schwimmer said she and colleagues got to work.
“I went back to The Quilting Season and we started making stockings,” she said.
All of the stockings offered are hand-made by local volunteers and individually unique.
“We do everything from holiday themes to sports theme like Michigan, EMU and Spartans to superheroes to cats and dogs to cars,” she said. “It just takes on all different kind of flavors.”
Schwimmer said volunteers sew the stockings at their own convenience.
“Some people like to make them early in the year when they have free time, and some people don’t start until now,” she said, putting the total number of volunteers somewhere around 15.
Initially there will be about 50 stockings offered, and more will be added as they are made and as the season presses on.
“We have everything from the little stockings that are sized for a gift card to larger stockings and jumbo-sized stockings,” she said. “They all are priced with a suggested donation and they have envelopes attached with each individual stocking.”
The stockings will eventually be available at Brewed Awakenings as well.
Schwimmer said with increased availability this year, she hopes to bring in even more donation dollars this time around.
“Last year we raised close to $2,000,” she said. “One hundred percent of the proceeds go to the two organizations and we take nothing for any of our costs.”
Those who do not want or need new stockings can also simply place cash donations in jars that will be available on the counter at both locations.
The funds really do make a meaningful difference, according to Schwimmer.
“We have some individuals at Whitehall that Mary has told us have no one visit them at Christmas and that really makes us sad,” She said. “We want to make sure that they have a good holiday and this is one way that we can do that.”
Some of the supplies are utilitarian goods not often thought about.
“They (Whitehall residents) are asked by the person who manages the establishment what is on their wish list and they’re usually really simple things like t-shirts and socks and toothbrushes, things that I think most of us just kind of take for granted,” Schwimmer said.
Other items provided for by the charity funds help bring a much-needed sense of joy to the recipients during the holidays.
“We want to make sure, in addition to that, that there’s also a thing or two in there that will make them smile other than a pair of socks,” she said. “Last year the manager of Whitehall worked with us to make sure that on the morning of the holiday they woke up and the stocking was hanging on the end of their bed. It really made us feel good, for all that work to make something like this come about.”
Schwimmer said it is easy in a fairly prosperous city like Saline to forget that some people still face tremendous financial hardship, and Saline Area Social Services provides a valuable service in helping them out.
“I didn’t actually realize how many people were below the poverty level,” she said. “You see all the people here that drive nice cars and are dressed very nicely and seem to be doing very well, but I guess I just didn’t think about all the people here who are really struggling.”
That is hard to take, said Schwimmer.
“Kids should be able to wake up on the holiday and know they are going to have a really nice meal and that they’re going to have a gift to celebrate the holiday,” she said. “That should be a normal thing.”
Those interested in helping to craft stockings for the endeavor are encouraged to do so.
“The Quilting Season, both on their webpage and in the store, has posted open hours of sew, and I have a template and directions there of how you can sew them,” Schwimmer said. “They do take some skill level, but they’re certainly something that anyone with a little guidance could do. We’re always looking for more help.”
She also encourages anyone who sees a stocking they like on the wall to buy it quickly.
“Each is unique and they’re one of a kind, so if you see it, grab it,” she said.
The Quilting Season is located at 7025 E. Michigan Ave. Suite A3, Saline, MI 48176, and can be reached online at www.thequiltingseason.org.