Nearly 20 people a minute, on average, are physically and/or emotionally abused by an intimate partner in the United States. This adds up to more than 10 million victims annually. For some of us, the prospect of facing violently abusive, life-threatening situations day after day is unfathomable; for others, unfortunately, it isn’t.
The decision to escape your abuser is a frightening and uncertain proposition. The courage and bravery of people making this life-altering decision inspired Joyce Lucas to launch the Pink Slipper Project, or PSP, in 2009. PSP provides handmade crochet slippers, washcloths, and other much-needed items to those in temporary residence situations at shelters for victims of domestic abuse throughout the United States. “I wanted to reach out to women and children that were forced from their homes and living in shelters,” says Joyce. “I wanted to let them know there are so many people that care.”
Through its Happy Hands program, PSP also provides crocheting and knitting supplies for therapeutic-learning programs at the shelters.
Under the direction of PSP coordinator Rachel Terrill, the group has grown to just under 5,000 members. “When I first learned about Pink Slipper Project and read about the work being done, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. This wonderful group has become very dear to me, and I’m honored to be able to continue the work Joyce Lucas started. I had never knit a pair of slippers, but I learned,” Rachel says.
Using Facebook as its primary platform, PSP’s model is innovative in its simplicity. Rachel makes initial contact with shelters and works with those interested in determining their respective needs, including color and size preferences for crochet slippers and more. When all of the details have been determined, a weekly challenge to make the needed items by a given deadline is issued to members via Facebook. Members pledge the number of handmade items that they can crochet, knit, or sew (or, in the case of their Happy Hands program, the number of crochet or knitting items they can supply) by the provided deadline until all items have been pledged.
Once pledged items are completed, PSP members package and ship crochet slippers and other items directly to the awaiting shelters. There are no required commitments or quotas. Members pledge individual items as their personal schedules allow. When a challenge is posted, pledges begin coming in immediately. Challenges are completed quickly, often within hours of being issued.
Beyond Crochet Slippers: Pet Love
Originally, PSP focused on crochet slippers—ranging from baby booties to adult sizes to accommodate all family members in the shelter—and washcloths. However, as evidence-based data shows, victims who are forced to leave a cherished pet behind are less likely to leave an abusive situation. Based on this information, many shelters now accept pets. A beloved pet also provides comfort, security, and—perhaps most importantly—unconditional love during the victim’s transition.
During initial contact with the shelters, Rachel determines whether they have an on-site kennel. If they do, challenges include pet blankets, which can be crocheted, knitted, or sewn.
While PSP’s model is simple in its design, it takes the hard work and commitment of a small group of volunteer administrators to oversee challenges and manage other online activities, including their blog and Pinterest board, both of which offer easy-to-follow patterns and instructions for various items. Child-related safety information on preparing crochet slippers for children and printable, recognizable PSP donation tags are available on PSP’s blog.
PSP is truly a volunteer-run charity with zero overhead. The administrative team, much like PSP’s membership, consists of individuals located throughout the United States. “What I love is that it’s a win-win situation. It joins people who are looking for a reason to crochet or knit and who need a connection to others with women and children who need a reminder that they are cared for and valuable. Everyone benefits,” says Lynne Bergman, one of PSP’s volunteer administrators based in Arizona.
Lynne also administers Helping Hands, a local crocheting and knitting charity in Tucson. She submits group pledges on behalf of Helping Hands to help fulfill PSP’s mission and complete issued challenges. “Several PSP Facebook members make pledges on behalf of their own local churches or charity groups,” Lynne says, demonstrating that when working toward a unified goal, a small group of local citizens can have a huge global impact. No pledge is too small.
If you are interested in participating in PSP’s challenges or would like additional information regarding the project’s mission, visit its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ThePinkSlipperProject, and its blog, thepinkslipperproject.blogspot.com. -SC
This article was first published in Interweave Crochet Spring 2020.