By Jane Primerano
The stereotype of middle school girls, especially those from affluent communities, is not generally a positive one.
Supposedly, they think only of themselves, spend too much time on their cell phones and develop crushes on the very boys their mothers don’t want them to hang around with. The stereotype does not include creating a charity to provide hats for the homeless.
But that’s what Emily Kubin did.
Now 22, the Drew University senior is the founder of Emily’s Hats for Hope Initiative. Emily learned to knit from her grandmother, Tibbie Reynolds, near the end of middle school. She started making scarves and sweaters and then learned to make hats. She found them a “quick and fun project,” and decided to find a local group to donate to. She was still thinking she would just make a few hats and donate them but word got out and others started to donate hats as well.
The first place to receive the hats was the soup kitchen in Morristown, Emily’s home town, then she brought some to the Interfaith Food Pantry in Morris Plains. Now they are also brought to the Jersey Battered Women’s Shelter and the Zufall Health Center. Emily also sends hats to Newark, Elizabeth and Cranford and other areas in the state with larger populations of the poor and homeless.
“The interesting thing about Morris County,” Emily said, “is that a lot of people don’t know there is poverty here. We have Madison, Chatham and Mendham, but there are hidden problems.”
Another thing Emily finds interesting is that the places she donates to don’t often ask for more hats.
“I have to ask them if they need more,” she said. “It’s like they don’t want to infringe on us. At this point we just look back to where we have donated in the past. Before, we looked into all the food pantries, soup kitchens, etc.”
Social media, for all its faults, can help get the word out on a good cause. As friends of Emily and her family found out about EHFHI, they told other friends and now there are satellites internationally.
Domestically, there are chapters in Washington State, Texas and Kentucky, among other states. Internationally, there are chapters in Denmark and Australia.
Emily admits she would love to visit the sites, “at least a cross-country road trip to visit the domestic sites.”
The Facebook page also offers tips on getting items to organization, posts photos of donated hats and “lets people see what is happening,” Emily said. Recently, the page announced the group donated its 25,000th hat.
She admits should couldn’t run EHEFI by herself, especially not while majoring in psychology at Drew University in Madison. Her mother, Jill answers questions and response to emails to the organization, her grandmother and many of her friends knit hats and her aunt, Sue Harris helps get the spin-off groups set up.
Like many college seniors, Emily is looking at graduate schools all over the country.
“I hope I end up in a cold place where people need hats,’ she said.
Her ultimate goal is a doctorate in social psychology. She would like to study different factors that influence poverty and the perceptions of poverty. She is prepared to work for a while before graduate school, however.
Questions on EHFHI can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations are welcome at P. O. Box 2374, Morristown, NJ 07962.
Emily emphasizes store-bought hats are welcome although most distributed are hand made. She also noted she has a “room full of yarn,” so is not accepting donations of yarn at this time.