This week the knitting world lost an amazing teacher, charity organizer and retail innovator. Evie Cohen Rosen passed away Nov. 21 after living a life filled with love; love of her hobby that turned into a passion for helping others. Ms. Rosen was the creator and founder of the Warm Up America Foundation.
Evie started knitting at age seven, and turned that passion into retail experience. She opened the Knitting Nook in a small Wisconsin town in 1964 and it thrived for 30 years. During this time, Evie taught knitting skills, ran a thriving business, published patterns and was instrumental in helping to form the Midwest Retailers Association.
Along the way Evie also persuaded The National NeedleArts Association to create a membership for retailers that gave them a voice in the industry. As a teacher of the knitting craft, Ms. Rosen helped to develop the certification program available through the Craft Yarn Council.
But Ms. Rosen’s largest contribution was the idea of creating a charity that would help keep the homeless warm. In the 1990’s Evie decided that she could not knit enough afghans to keep up with the need at shelters. She thought if the word was sent out to knitters, they could use up their bits of yarn left over from projects to create knitted blocks. From those donated blocks, afghans could be stitched together at a faster rate by volunteers.
Mary Colucci, Executive Director, Warm Up America Foundation wrote a loving tribute about Evie Rosen and her contributions to the knitting industry that is posted to the Craft Yarn Council website.
In the early 1990s when the homeless situation was becoming a national crisis, she came up with the idea for Warm Up America. I remember her calling me to say: “I’ve been knitting afghans and donating them to a local shelter but I can’t knit them fast enough to fill the need, but I have an idea. What if we breakdown the task of making blankets to manageable parts so we can involve lots more people and the idea for Warm Up America was born.”
It wasn’t long after that she had people across the country knitting and crocheting squares which other volunteers joined together to make afghans for the homeless and others in need. With support from The National NeedleArts Association and Craft Yarn Council, the program became a national success with over 15 million blocks created across the country and over 300,000 afghans given to those in need across the globe. Today it is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation.
Evie Rosen will be missed, but her contributions to the knitting industry and Warn Up America will live on. A simple idea, to help others has turned into a large network of knitters and crocheters around the country that contribute to filling a basic need, the need to stay warm. Warm Up America distributes warm afghans, hats and other items to tens of thousands of people, thanks to the generosity of knitters and crocheters.
More information about Ms. Rosen and her contributions can be found at the Warm Up America website or her obituary. Funeral services will be Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012 at Mt. Sinai Congregation in Wausau. Memorials may be directed to Mt. Sinai Congregation, 910 W. Randolph St., Wausau, Wisconsin or Warm Up America.
- Craft Yarn Council
- Warm Up America