Try finding a wool sweater at a local second-hand shop you’ll probably be out of luck – and you can blame a local nonprofit for that.
For the past six years, Soup of Success has been gobbling up all the wool sweaters they can find and turned them into possibility.
Six years ago, a woman named Carla Chester gifted Soup of Success her mitten line.
“She got tired of making mittens, but she knew there was still a market for them and everyone loved them and, she wanted them to continue on and do good,” said Betsy Ayrea Delfine, director of Soup of Success.
The mittens are constructed using upcycled wool sweaters. For each pair of mittens, 4 different sweaters are used and each sweater makes 5 different sets of mittens.
Belinda Gamez is a graduate from the Soup of Success program (a women’s empowerment and job skills training program) and one of the chief designers for the mitten line.
“At first all I saw was black. But since I’ve been working (here), I see colors,” Gamez said. “Colors make me happy. The more colorful the better. I think that is what (I like most).”
Belinda says she has learned a lot about color composition from interacting with the people who buy the mittens.
“I love blue, but when I (talked to the customers), a lot of ladies would tell me they liked a certain color.”
She says dog walkers and some men were interested in specific designs (Mittens on a Mission are made for women). They have also found a growing market in teachers who find themselves outside for recess duty.
“Teachers say we are the best recess mittens around,” Betsy said, chuckling.
On a more sensitive note, they have been asked to make memorial sweaters for families who have lost a loved one.
“Those are very emotional for us because you want them to be perfect,” Betsy said.
Each mitten is lined with heavy-duty fleece and comes with care instructions.
As many as eight individuals are involved in creating each pair of mittens. The final inspection includes a staff trying them on, inspecting all seams and ensuring that the buttons and labels are placed properly.
Soup of Success
Soup of Success is a program of Church Community Services that works to empower women, through education and resources, to help them build self-esteem, develop independence, and improve their quality of life.
Soup of Success is an intensive 20-week program which helps marginalized women find their voices, discover their direction, establish their goals, and overcome their obstacles to achieve those goals.
Proceeds from Mittens on a Mission support the Soup of Success program.
907 Oakland Avenue
Elkhart, IN 46516