It's said that there's strength in numbers. After enduring physical and emotional abuse off and on for seven years, JoHanna Gratz found strength enough to break away from that relationship and discovered a way to help others who've experienced abuse.
JoHanna, a freelance book editor, and her husband, Evan, high school pastor at Community Presbyterian Church, moved to Danville in 2010.
"I got connected with a counselor here who's truly been a godsend to me," JoHanna said. "I've been crocheting since I was 9, and she encouraged me to start making scarves for other people who are victims of abuse. Evan helped me come up with the name, Scarves for Strength, and we put up a website, and I've been making scarves ever since."
Since starting in January, JoHanna has sent out 75 scarves, she said. At first, it took her a lot longer, but now she can make a scarf in about six hours, working off and on.
"I keep it pretty simple, using basic stitches, just a double-crochet," JoHanna said. "I try to use a couple of different types of yarn, a fancy one and a plain one -- mohair or angel hair with a basic acrylic or polyester."
Each scarf is 24 inches long, about 12 inches wide, and embellished with a fabric yo-yo flower attached with a button or bead. When finished, she carefully wraps the scarf in tissue and seals the package with a sticker that contains a note and a Bible verse such as Romans 12:21: "Don't let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good."
"It's my favorite prayer. There are so many negative things in the world; it's a good reminder to me to be positive and get out there and make things better," JoHanna said.
She was raised in Minnesota and received a bachelor's degree in history and religion from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. She met Evan at a youth ministry "Tentmakers" leadership training course shortly before she moved to Seoul, South Korea, to teach English to preschoolers. They stayed in touch online and, following her return to the U.S., they were married in 2007.
After a recent article about JoHanna's efforts appeared in All You magazine, she received 80 requests for the scarves in three weeks. The requests are from women and children in New York, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota and other states too numerous to list.
"I've just been doing everything myself," she said. "The response I've been getting has been great, but it's an eye-opener. Most of the women tell me long stories about their experience. They feel really alone and some have never told anyone what they're going through. I don't even know them, but they feel safe with me, I guess."
The average cost per scarf is $15, including materials and postage (but not, of course, counting the hours of labor). JoHanna said she would welcome donations to help defray the costs and would love some help from other knitters and crocheters, since she has 80 recent requests to fill.
Scarves for Strength is in the process of attaining 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit. For further information, visit the website at http://www.scarvesforstrength.com.
Merry Christmas, happy holidays and be safe.
Contact Georgia Lambert at firstname.lastname@example.org.