Today was a sewing day–a group of us met up at hack.rva for an RVA Maker Guild-supported workshop for SEW for SOS. (Click on that link if you have no idea what I’m talking about!) We hung out for a few hours, most of us hand sewing, and produced 50 pillows (that was the exact number! we were at 49 and someone quickly machine-sewed another one in the last few minutes to get us to 50!). I hand-sewed 4 or 5 pillows, and just really enjoyed chatting with folks–some I already knew, and some new to me. Hack.rva is a neat space, and I think that whole community is one I’d really like to spend more time in. Even my introverted, shy self felt very at ease today. And I was really proud of Luke and Deven, the SEW for SOS leaders, for how they organized things and how they mentored the younger kids who came out. We even had an adorable 3-year-old helping write/draw the messages to go inside the pillows!
BUT THAT IS NOT WHY IT’S A BIG DAY!!!
First, a bit of history of the money side of SEW for SOS. There really hasn’t been a money side, at least officially. We have gotten incredible donations of fabric from multiple sources, a donated sewing machine (thanks, Dad!), and the rest of the expenses have been minimal. Thread and needles just do not cost much, and we have them in the library makerspace. One of the beautiful things about this whole initiative is that it can be done cheaply, especially since we already had one sewing machine when we started. The only thing that has raised little $ questions in my head has been postage. I have paid most of it myself, a little via library budget, and then Luke has taken some packages home to mail. Postage is, by far, the biggest expense after sewing machines. Who knew? (Not me.)
More history: this project has gotten a bit crazy. Luke has formed partnerships with several national organizations: NAMI; Operation First Response, an organization that provides support to veterans; several hospitals, including ones in Massachusetts and South Carolina. When another kid has suggested a possible place to send pillows (usually because of some personal connection), Luke follows up on it. He has also sought out organizations that help people with depression and mental illness, because his original inspiration was wanting to help people who were struggling with depression and effects of bullying. We also got a large number of individual requests for pillows when the story aired on NBC’s website and got picked up by some local affiliates around the country. As an example, one of those people was asking for a pillow for her son who is getting cancer treatment, and has linked us up with the hospital where he is treated. On my desk at school is a box of 100 pillows ready to go to that hospital. My point: we are sending pillows all over, and there appears to be no end to the demand. I mean, as long as these kids keep producing pillows, we will have places to send them.
So that raises two “problems” (don’t really see them as problems, but don’t have another word handy–challenges?). One, how are we going to make all of these pillows? We have sent out over 300 so far (probably over 400 at this point? I am not keeping track!), and didn’t have any trouble making those, but the kids’ vision for SEW for SOS is bigger than just our school. They want to help other schools start their own branches, and grow the whole initiative to meet the demand. But one thing that has always been a concern for them (not for me, but for Luke and Deven, the leaders of SEW for SOS) is the idea that they are relying on the library for supplies. So they want to help other schools get started by providing a sewing machine and supplies, so kids can get going without worrying about how their school will pay for it. They also want to raise some money for postage (yay!).
So, Luke read something a while ago in a Time for Kids magazine about sponsr.us. You can read about their mission on the site, but long story short, they are college and high school students who have started a non-profit focused on mentoring and providing fundraising support to student-led social entrepreneur initiatives. It’s like Kickstarter, I guess, but for student-led organizations, and sponsr.us does not take a cut of the money. They also provide mentoring and feedback, which has been really valuable so far from what I have seen. After several months of interview/application/interview (all handled by Luke and Deven, rising 7th graders; I was part of the first conversation and have been included on emails and the application, but this is all their idea and work), sponsr.us is promoting the project on their site and providing a fundraising platform. !!! This is their first middle school project–they are making an exception to their age rules. The goal is to raise $500 to buy supplies to bring SEW for SOS to other schools, within 30 days (I think August 15th is the deadline).
I have no idea how this will go! I’m nervous! But I am so very proud of these kids and their desire to really continue with and grow what they started, and to find a way to fund it on their own. Their hearts are in this project, and they put in so much time and effort and love. If you have $5 to spare just to give them a show of support, it would be greatly appreciated. But it’s really not about the money, so if you don’t want or aren’t able to do that, please just consider going to their website and shooting them a message. :)
(And if you have the question I had, the way it works is that if all the funds are raised, then we either buy the supplies and submit receipts to sponsr.us for reimbursement, or they purchase the supplies and have them sent to us; it’s not possible for anyone to just cash in.)
So, at long last, Here is their fundraising page, which launched tonight. (Note: I did NOT write any of that stuff about myself!!!!! They are being far too kind, I swear!!! See how sweet they are?)
P.S. If you have been interested in my posts about paper circuits, check out this post by my colleague, indieschoollib. I am very inspired and now want to try my hand at adding LEDs to existing images to tell a story!