Knitting club keeps Ela Library’s mitten tree growing
Michelle Bourgeois, Ela Area Public Library's teen services librarian, adjusts mittens on the library's Mitten Tree. The winter gear will be donated to residents in need. | Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 14, 2013 7:05AM
LAKE ZURICH — To complement the many coat drives that occur this time of year, the Ela Area Public Library is giving away donated mittens, gloves and hats to four area charities.
For more than 30 years, the Ela Library has decorated a “mitten tree” that stands in the front of the facility. Residents of Lake Zurich and the surrounding areas can donate winter accessories throughout the month of December.
Terri Meyer, adult program coordinator at the library, said the mitten tree will stay up until Jan. 4.
“Our focus is strictly on mittens, hats and scarves,” said Meyer. “Over the years, we’ve given to lots of shelters.”
Meyer said the library staff divides the winter gear between four area charitable causes: Emmaus House at St. Francis de Sales Church, which offers a food pantry and Sunday dinners to area residents in need; Mount Saint Joe’s, an intermediate care facility; Lake County Haven and Lake County PADS, both of which serve the needs of homeless women and children.
“Each year, we get more and more donations,” said Meyer. “Our community is very generous.”
Meyer said in 2011 about 900 items were donated to the mitten tree. She said in recent years, Warm Up Lake Zurich, a knitting club at the library, has helped greatly with mitten tree donations.
“They wanted to start a service project and they thought this would be nice,” said Meyer. “So they donate items throughout the year.”
Laura Cloud, Assistant Head of Technical Services at the library, said she started Warm Up Lake Zurich because she and several other staff members were interested in knitting.
“I just wanted to expand it,” said Cloud. “So it grew into the mitten tree. We’ve been running it for our third year.”
The knitting group took over the mitten tree from the Friends of the Library group, which has since been disbanded.
Cloud said most members of the knitting group have made sets of hats and gloves to donate to the mitten tree.
“Everyone likes trying new patterns,” she said. “And this is a great way to do that.”
“One set can be made by three different people,” Cloud said. “We make some baby hats and go all the way up to adults.”
Meyer said she thinks the reason the mitten tree continues to grow in donations is because it has been a consistent holiday fixture in the library for so many years. She said although the library does specify new items, they also accept gently used winter gear.
“Because we’ve been running it so long, there’s a core in the community that knows to donate,” she said.