Sunday, September 23, 2018

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‘Ball of potential’: Knit­ter adopts cause to make and col­lect crafted cold-weather gear to donate

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    Rachel Bonitz of Menomonie knits hats, mittens and other items to help keep people warm. She donates the items she knits and crochets to local agencies or at Blessing Boxes or Little Free Libraries as part of Rachel’s Hats for Hope Initiative: Wisconsin. It is part of the nationwide group Emily’s Hats for Hope.

    Staff photos by Pamela Powers
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MENOMONIE — Rachel Bonitz of Menomonie looks at a ball of yarn and sees the possibilities.

She envisions hats, mittens, scarves, baby booties and blankets that could help keep people warm during the cold winter ahead.

Bonitz started Rachel’s Hats for Hope Initiative: Wisconsin on Aug. 1. It is part of the nationwide Emily’s Hats for Hope Initiative.

In 2011, then 17-year-old Emily Kubin of Morristown, N.J., realized she could help the homeless and the working poor in her community by knitting hats for them. She has made and collected more than 25,000 hats and inspired other initiatives across the nation as well as Canada, Denmark and Australia, according to

Bonitz, who was born in Durand, learned about the initiative and wanted to start one in Wisconsin.

“I’ve been a charity knitter for about seven years,” Bonitz said. “I realized I could be a donation location and help more.”

Rachel’s Hats for Hope Initiative: Wisconsin delivers hats and other knit goods such as scarves, mittens, booties, slippers and blankets to such sites as the Blessing Box near River Heights Elementary School and the Free Little Library near Stepping Stones of Dunn County. She also has donated items to WIC in Buffalo/​Pepin counties, the Safe Haven Foster Closet and Helping Hands for Our Children in the Chippewa Valley. Items have also been placed in a Blessing Box in Mondovi.

Bonitz learned to crochet from her late mother, Debra Fahnel, when Bonitz was about 9 years old. Then on and off throughout her teenage years Bonitz taught herself to knit.

“I love making things, especially stuff to help people,” Bonitz said.

Donations of yarn are always appreciated for the initiative, Bonitz said. She is also hoping to connect with other knitters or those who enjoy crocheting who want to donate items they have made.

“I am always looking for more knitters,” she said. “I can only get so many things done, and there are a lot of people out there who make different things than me. I need items for men and boys. Sports colors are very popular.”

On average Bonitz — who has three children younger than 6 with her husband, Jerek — can knit three baby hats a day. Since she started the initiative she has made about 300 items.

“Every spare second is spent immersed in the yarn,” she said.

Holding up a ball of yarn with hues of yellow, green and orange, Bonitz said: “Yarn is a ball of potential. This could turn into anything or several anythings.”

Sites to leave hats and other knitted items also are needed, Bonitz said, noting she is always looking for ways to get hats and other warm items to those in need.

When she first put items into the Blessing Box near River Heights Elementary School, they were gone in a few days, Bonitz said.

That is not surprising because she knows how much need there is for warm clothing.

For more information or to help Rachel’s Hats for Hope Initiative: Wisconsin, visit the Facebook site. To learn more about Emily’s Hats for Hope Initiative, find the group on Facebook or visit the website 

Contact: 715-556-9018,, @MenomonieBureau on Twitter

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