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Charity Yarn Bombing

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Conceived by Mary Ann Gingles, owner of Yarns Unlimited in Bloomington, Ind., the idea to sponsor a fundraiser for Middle Way House was inspired by yarn bombing. Mimicking other artists who wrap trees, statues and other stationary objects in their fuzzy creations, she adorned the tree outside her business last winter. This past fall, Mary Ann gathered volunteer stitchers who ranged from children to retirees in collaboration with downtown businesses to raise funds for Middle Way House. With a 30-year history of comprehensive services for women and children who are victims of domestic violence, this agency was selected in 2001 as a model program for others to follow.

The volunteers needed at least one month to create their tree "sweaters" and collaborated on the specific designs with the sponsors who paid $500 for each tree that was decorated in their honor. According to WishTV.com, the sweaters were put on the trees on Oct. 5, 2012, in honor of Domestic Violence Month. Sharon Fugate, co-owner of Relish, which sells furniture and women's apparel, is a sponsor; her team used muted colors and a lacy technique to remind people of the types of fashions available in the store. Sharon explained that her reason for being a sponsor was the idea of giving back to the community in a creative way. "It's kind of a win-win," she said.

Volunteers for the Yarns Unlimited tree used the hyperbolic crochet method to cover their tree in free-form fashion. Viewers donated one dollar per vote for their favorite tree and could even use their smartphone and the QR code on the tree sweater. The winner, Gold Casters Jewelry, garnered 2,031 votes.

In a phone interview with Gingles, she told me that 23 trees surrounding the town square are adding to the festive mood downtown this holiday season as they complement the lights. "We have raised $17,000 for Middle Way House," she proudly says. "The response from townspeople has been very positive beyond the fundraising. They love how it looks around the square." The trees are expected to remain adorned until March, and Mary Ann says repairs will be done as needed.

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