Monday, July 10, 2006

Seeing red (but in a good way!)

There's a lot I'd like to accomplish over the next six months. Paint the living room. Design some wonderful perennial beds for the back yard. Exceed all my objectives for the year at work. Lose 20 pounds. Read some classic literature.

And I know if I'm going to complete any of these things, I've got to make progress in small steps along the way. None of these goals are suited to last-minute rushes at the end of the year!

Same goes for another goal I'd like to meet come January: Contributing to a wonderful project to encourage young adults attending college with little or no family support. It's called the Red Scarf Project.

When I first read about this program a couple of months ago, I couldn't get it out of my mind. It's a little involved, but here's the background.

As many as 13,000 young people who have come out of foster care are attending college each year. And according to the Orphan Foundation of America, these kids are remarkable success stories. They represent only 10 percent of former foster kids who make it past high school - and they do so through their own talents, determination, and a lot of scholarship support from organizations like the OFA.

This sort of grit and focus on success -- even when nobody expects you to -- is awe-inspiring. But the OFA knows that while these kids need financial support, they can benefit from a little moral support, too.

Now...Remember getting care packages in college? Those wonderful, unexpected parcels filled with chocolate chip cookies, funky socks, quarters for the laundry, and notes from home? They usually arrived magically, just when the pressure of classwork seemed overwhelming - and they never failed to provide just the necessary encouragement to hang in there. But if you have no family at home - if you're truly on your own -who's going to send you a care package? Who's going to give you that little boost of confidence from knowing that somebody really cares about you?

Twice a year, the Washington D.C.-based OFA does its best to fill that need for thousands of former foster kids who've gone on to college. In the fall, they organize members of Congress and other government staff to pack care packages for kids all over the U.S. And for Valentine's Day, they send another boost in the form of a warm, handmade red scarf.

Want to get involved? Just make a scarf and in January, mail it to the OFA. All the information you need is right here. And if you're near an Einstein Brothers Bagel shop, you can drop off your scarves there -- again, only in January.

The OFA will take care of mailing your scarf with a message of encouragement to a college student in time for Valentine's Day.

The OFA Web site gives a few guidelines for the scarves - about 60 inches long, soft, and preferably red, but any unisex color or style will do. Here are some good pattern ideas, too. (I'd stay away from the FunFur types - think warmth, not fashion.)

So why not dig through your stash, find your red yarn, and take advantage of some relaxing summer evenings by knitting a scarf? I'm keeping mine in a basket in the TV room and pick it up for a few minutes here and there....and it'll be done in nothing flat, with plenty of time to start a few more before January's mailing (and still paint the living room and plan next spring's flower beds.)

Oh, if only it were so easy to lose 20 pounds by year-end, too!!!


Lisa said...

I'm a former foster child and current child advocate.

Thanks for doing this, and promoting it...

When I was in college and grad school, the hardest times for me were the holidays.

For young adults without family, holidays can be the loneliest times of the year. (Not to mention the fact that dorms close and students without families often have no place to go).


Zoanna said...

Yes, thanks for getting the word out. I tried knitting and failed. Your post has made me want to try again.
It's easy to forget that college kids stuck on campus during holidays. Thanks, Lisa, for the gentle reminder. We've had foreign students to our home for Thanksgiving dinner, but I haven't thought about kids who'd like to hang out w/ a family for longer than a day.

Diane said...

In past years I've adopted a family at Christmas but this year I can probably find some college students that would appreciate a fine holiday with all the trimmings.

Walmart has chenille (and other fancies) marked down to $2.50. Great reds!

Zoanna, have you tried crochet? Very easy to get the hang of and if you live near a JoAnns they have knit and crochet socials.