Crafts That Give Back: Spread Cheer by DIYing for Charity

Use your knitting, crocheting or coloring skills for good by donating to one (or several) of these crafting-based charities.

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Calling all crafters! Have we got a heartwarming DIY project for you this season: crafts that give back—i.e., crafts that aren't just beautiful to look at but help others too. After all, there's nothing more heartwarming than receiving a handmade gift, as anyone who's ever unwrapped a cozy hand-knit scarf or tin of homemade cookies can verify. (Thanks, Grandma!)

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With that sense of warmth in mind, we've rounded up eight crafting-based charities, nonprofits and other worthwhile projects that are looking for crafters to spread some cheer to those in need—from seniors living in care facilities to hospitalized children to animal shelter pets waiting for their forever homes.

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The organizations are in need of everything from knitting to card-making to sewing—and all skill levels are welcome. Best of all, these charities offer opportunities to spread kindness and goodwill throughout the year, not just the holidays. So you can keep the good vibes going all year long!

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1. Comfort for Critters

A nonprofit based in Illinois; ComfortForCritters.org

Who:Comfort for Critters was founded in Illinois in 2007 by Linda Kastiel Kozlowski, who was inspired to provide handmade blankets for pets in animal shelters after adopting a kitten of her own. Proceeds from books and other online projects help pay for the cost of shipping out volunteer-made blankets to animals in need. As of November 2022, Comfort for Critters has donated more than 155,000 blankets to animal shelters—benefitting more than 400 shelters across all 50 states.

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"We always tell people that the pets won't mind if the blanket is not perfect or misshapen. They just want something comfy to lie on or under!" —Linda Kastiel Kozlowski, Comfort for Critters founder

What they need:‌ Funds for shipping costs are a current donation priority, but handmade blankets and yarn contributions from volunteers of all skill levels are always needed.

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How to help:‌ You can directly knit and donate a blanket, send along materials or simply make a monetary contribution to offset costs. To start, visit the Comfort for Critters website and check out the Volunteer Packet, then peruse free patterns for crochet, knit and fleece blankets. Linda suggests that volunteers subscribe to the organization's free monthly newsletter to stay in the loop. "To raise funds, we sell two e-books on our website that have 30 patterns each for crocheting our blankets," she adds. "It's a great way for people to learn what we're all about, get a bunch of easy patterns and help us keep going—and shipping."

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Heart over skill:‌ "We always tell people that the pets won't mind if the blanket is not perfect or misshapen," says Linda. "They just want something comfy to lie on or under!"

2. Ryan’s Case For Smiles

A nonprofit organization; CaseForSmiles.org

Who:Ryan's Case For Smiles (former known as ConKerr Cancer and commonly referred to as Case For Smiles) is a volunteer organization founded in 2007 that sends colorful handmade pillowcases to hospitalized children by way of 120 local chapters and 362 participating hospitals throughout the country.

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Case for Smiles was inspired by Ryan Kerr, who was first diagnosed with cancer at age 12 and ultimately experienced five recurrences before succumbing to the disease. Ryan's compassion and kindness throughout his illness is threaded into everything the organization does. When you take time to sew a pillowcase, you'll contribute to an already impressive 40 million hours of volunteer time donated by caring crafters.

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What they need:‌ The organization is always in need of hand-sewn pillowcases made with 100% cotton.

How to help:‌ Start by finding your local chapter of Case For Smiles. An area coordinator can help you determine where to drop off your completed pillowcases and answer any questions about the sewing process. Volunteers are asked to use colorful, vibrant prints (think: something that might help cheer up a neutral hospital room) and to avoid glitter. Fabric should be washed before use with unscented detergent and dryer sheets.

No-sew, no problem‌: If sewing isn't your forte, you can still help the cause. Get in touch with your local Case For Smiles chapter and donate 100% cotton fabric, as volunteer Kelsey (see below) did for crafters in the Eugene, Oregon, chapter.

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3. Color A Smile

A nonprofit based in New Jersey; ColorASmile.org

Who:Color A Smile is a nonprofit that asks volunteers of all ages to print coloring pages and create bright, cheerful artwork that's mailed to senior citizens, overseas troops and other people in need of some extra joy. Color A Smile began in New Jersey in 1990 and continues to distribute thousands of mailed drawings every month.

What they need:‌ The need for colorful drawings is ongoing, with printable coloring pages being added to the Color A Smile website throughout the year. While it's not required, crafters are encouraged to include a donation with their mailed artwork in order to support the Color A Smile mission.

How to help:‌ Head to the org's instruction page, where you'll find printable pictures to color. Use crayons, colored pencils or markers to perfect your masterpiece before signing it with your first name and age. Next, simply drop your handiwork in the mail to Color A Smile's address, which is listed on their website. There's no deadline to mail in your drawing—just be sure not to use glitter or add a date or "get well" message to your art piece.

Not just for kids:‌ The popularity of adult coloring books is no secret to Color A Smile, so they've added a whole section of "grown-up coloring pages" to their collection of printable online resources. The entire family can color for a good cause.

4. The Kindness Rocks Project®

A worldwide art project; TheKindnessRocksProject.com

Who:The Kindness Rocks Project®, founded by Megan Murphy, encourages people of all ages to write uplifting messages on rocks and leave them in public places for others to find. In 2015, Megan wrote "You've got this" on a rock and set it on a Cape Cod beach to be discovered. When a friend came across it, the idea for Kindness Rocks was born. "Our project can now be found in more than 90 countries," Megan says. "Hundreds of thousands of people have participated, and the number of 'kindness rocks' that have been painted is well into the millions."

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What they need:‌ Financial resources are among the project's most pressing needs—and there's always a need for more "kindness rocks."

How to help:‌ Megan says that supporters can help by purchasing Kindness Rocks-related products. "I created an art therapy rock painting kit with eco-friendly components as a one-for-one model so that I could support those who wished to join the project." Explore the project's online shop for more.

If you're focused on decorating uplifting rocks of your own, head to the project's website for rock-painting ideas, tutorials, guidelines and inspiration. You'll also find a variety of free resources, including lesson plans for painting rocks with children and printable holiday labels. Once you've created your rocks, it's up to you where they're placed! Megan emphasizes that when placing their rocks in nature, participants should adhere to Leave No Trace policies—the principles of which are outlined on the Kindness Rocks website.

Around the world:‌ When we say Kindness Rocks is an international project, we mean it! Megan even brought along a whole shipment of colorful rocks to distribute on a recent trip to Kenya in celebration of World Kindness Day.

"Hundreds of thousands of people have participated, and the number of 'kindness rocks' that have been painted is well into the millions." —Megan Murphy, founder of The Kindness Rocks Project®

5. Feel Better Friends

An international nonprofit; FBFDolls.org

Who:Feel Better Friends is a nonprofit organization founded in 2014 that donates crocheted and hand-knit dolls to children facing cancer or other serious illnesses. Feel Better Friends dolls are often made with removable wigs or distinctive features that help normalize the experience of hair loss and other side effects from medical treatments such as chemo and radiation—the aim of the project is for kids to have "twin" dolls. Dolls are most commonly sent to children in the United States and Canada, but applicants from other countries can submit requests on behalf of children in need.

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What they need:‌ Feel Better Friends needs more crafters to make dolls and financial donations.

How to help:‌ Because dolls aren't typically beginner-friendly projects, there's a training process involved: Organization leaders recommend joining the their Volunteers in Training Facebook group to check out crochet patterns, connect with other crafters and determine whether taking part in the project is a fit. From there, potential volunteers will make a "test doll."

Feel-good social media:‌ Feel Better Friends's Instagram account posts updates and photos of children who've received their lookalike dolls. Give them a follow for a boost of joy in your feed.

6. The Red Scarf Project

A nationwide nonprofit project; FC2Success.org

Who:The Red Scarf Project is operated by Foster Care to Success, a nonprofit founded in 1981 that focuses on helping foster care youth navigate higher education after "aging out" of the foster care system. The project donates handmade red scarves to participating young people now attending college or training programs throughout the United States.

Red scarves are typically included in annual Valentine's Day care packages sent by Foster Care to Success—offering foster care youth a sense of warmth and belonging, even if they don't have traditional family units or parental figures sending them mail at school.

What they need:‌ Red scarves! Scarf donations are accepted annually between September 1st and December 15th—so if you won't have time this go-round, add the project to your calendar for next year.

How to help:‌ Beginners and experts alike can take part by knitting or crocheting scarves in shades of red, from cherry to burgundy to multicolored patterns with red highlights. Head to the Red Scarf Project's website and explore "Red Scarf Instructions" to get started—there are even knitting patterns available if you're seeking a bit of inspiration as you kick off your piece(s). Scarf-makers are encouraged to include a "handmade for you" tag signed with their name, city and/or group affiliation for a personal touch. Be sure that your donated scarf has gender-neutral appeal and is warm enough for the winter months.

Major impact:‌ The meaningful work of Foster Care to Success has been acknowledged by every White House administration since 1989.

7. Project Linus

A nonprofit based in Missouri; ProjectLinus.org

Who:‌ Since its founding in 1995, Missouri-based Project Linus has coordinated the donation of more than nine million handmade blankets to children in need throughout the United States. Crafters are known as "blanketeers" in the Project Linus world—a nod to their dedication and sense of unity while creating comforting items for children in need.

What they need:‌ There are several ways to help, from donating supplies to actually making a blanket or quilt. If you aren't quite ready to take on a crafting project, Project Linus is always in need of monetary donations.

How to help:‌ Check out the Find Chapters page on Project Linus' website, which will help you connect with a local group of fellow crafters and organizers. From there, you'll receive all the necessary details for knitting or quilting a blanket, where your donated items will go and how to continue aiding children in your area.

Calling all crafting detectives:‌ Every year, Project Linus runs a Mystery Quilt contest and fundraiser. Each week, a new clue as to the mystery quilt design is revealed by way of templates and instructions for making a portion of the blanket. At the conclusion of the contest, votes for the best quilt are collected in the form of donations to Project Linus—and every participant has a completed quilt to donate!

8. Cards For Hospitalized Kids

A charitable organization based in Chicago; CardsForHospitalizedKids.com

Who:Cards For Hospitalized Kids is a Chicago-based charitable organization that spreads strength and joy to hospitalized kids across the country through uplifting handmade cards.

More than 500,000 cards have been donated to date and distributed throughout all 50 states. Founder Jen Rubino says that folks can easily request a card for a teen or child facing health issues at a local hospital. "There's a Request A Card form on our website," she explains. "In addition to distributing cards in hospitals, we also send cards to individual kids referred to us via our website."

What they need:‌ While handmade cards are always in high demand, Cards For Hospitalized Kids also has a growing need for mailing supply donations and even social media followers. "While it might seem simple, connecting with our social media accounts is helpful because social media is the primary way people learn about Cards For Hospitalized Kids," she says. "This type of engagement helps us continue to grow and ultimately help more kids."

How to help:‌ Head to the Make Cards page on the Cards For Hospitalized Kids website, where you'll find detailed instructions regarding both holiday and general card-making. Make sure your card fits the artistic guidelines (it shouldn't have excess glitter or ink that might rub off) and include a kind greeting—volunteers are asked not to include religious sentiments or illness-based comments, as the focus should be on the child as a person instead of their diagnosis. When you're finished, you'll mail your cards to the organization's listed address in Chicago.

Star power:‌ Cards For Hospitalized Kids has received social media recognition and even handmade cards from an array of celebrities, including Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Olympian Aly Raisman.

For crafters, there's personal joy in the art of making—but we hope these crafts for good causes will inspire you to expand the impact of your creative energy this holiday season and beyond!

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