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Nonprofit Spotlight: Mittens for Detroit

Every Michigander knows about the perils of our winters: the icy roads, the potential for power outages, the need to dress in layers. The winter requires extra vigilance to keep ourselves safe–and to look out for others. We asked Mittens For Detroit’s Executive Director Wendy Shepherd to tell us about why it’s so important to support nonprofits like hers in the winter months.

As the only nonprofit in the Detroit area focused specifically on collecting and distributing mittens, they have a simple message: “Mittens matter.” Mittens for Detroit has a network of distribution partners including schools, shelters, senior centers, veteran's centers, and medical facilities that can request pairs of mittens for the kids, teens, and adults who use their services. 

Shepherd reminds us, “[P]eople who are struggling financially are more likely to suffer the pain and the injuries that exposure of skin to the frigid Detroit weather may cause. Mittens and gloves are basic needs if you live in Detroit.” In temperatures of 0 degrees Fahrenheit, people can get frostbite in as little as 30 minutes. Without access to quality gloves, people may have to use “socks or plastic bags on their hands, or simply pulling their hands into their sleeves or digging their hands into their pockets.” These methods will not keep people safe in the cold–mittens will.

And mittens are never just mittens. With new mittens, community members are ready to face the day. In regards to children, Shepherd proclaims, “With warm hands, [schoolchildren] come to their buildings, ready to learn – able to hold pens and pencils, to type on keyboards, and to turn the pages of books. They can comfortably play outside at recess which is so important to healthy human development.” Mittens for Detroit taking care of this basic need for children has a trickle down effect because many teachers spend their own money to provide gloves for children. When Mittens for Detroit makes a donation to a school, those teachers report back to Shepherd that it frees up their funds to spend on learning tools. 

One issue Mittens for Detroit has faced recently is the donation of large amounts of thin gloves. While people’s hearts are in the right place by making the donations, Shepherd cautions potential donors to keep in mind that while inexpensive, these thin gloves are often ineffective at keeping out the cold. She advises, “[F]ocus on the warmth of the item they are donating so that their kindness and generosity has the highest impact on the recipient of their gift.”

Since its founding in 2010, Mittens for Detroit has distributed more than a quarter of a million new pairs! Mittens for Detroit accepts pairs year-round. Charity MittenMakers from all over the country create and donate 1500-2000 pairs each year. More than 100 Community Collection Partners host boxes around Metro Detroit, bringing in an average of 25,000 donated pairs annually. In the past, community members like you have supported their mission by running fundraisers at schools, through Facebook, with restaurant dine and donate programs, and–their favorite!–with lemonade stands. 

You can support Mittens for Detroit’s mission by donating funds for them to buy the mittens they need for distribution and cover the costs of running the nonprofit itself. Mittens for Detroit has a one-staff office so their work is made possible by generous monetary donations and by people sharing their time and skills to help with various projects and initiatives. Join them and together help warm hearts, two hands at a time.

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