It started with the man on the bus.
“I was crocheting a scarf and he said he’d just gotten out of jail,” said Kailey Lewis, a 20-year-old cognitive science student at Carleton.
With nowhere to live, and no money, he told her, he wished he had a scarf too.
That’s when Lewis decided to create “Kailey’s Scarves for the Homeless,” a Facebook page where people can purchase one of her hand-crocheted infinity scarves, and for every purchase made, another is donated to a homeless individual in Ottawa.
Lewis sells the scarves for $20 in order to cover the cost of wool.
Since going public with the idea in October 2012, Lewis has received 156 orders and made two trips to the local shelter Shepherds of Good Hope to distribute 90 scarves to those in need.
The gratitude they show, Lewis said, is what inspires her to continue with the project.
“I get so cold waiting at the bus stop for 10 minutes, and that’s 10 minutes – it’s nothing,” Lewis said.
“I’d appreciate the gift of a scarf,” said Lewis, “and I’d like to think that someone else might too. Every bit of warmth helps.”
On top of her scarf project, Lewis also volunteers at Canadian Blood Services, at a psychiatric centre, and manages a part-time job.
She said she could picture herself working at a similar clinic in the future, either at home or abroad.
Not only was Lewis a finalist in this year’s Campus Perks philanthropy contest, but she said she has also been recognized by the Chamber of Commerce, which is interested in supporting her project.
If scarves continue to be purchased, which Lewis hopes they will, she may expand donations to communities in northern Canada in order to help more people.
There are only so many homeless people in Ottawa she can donate to before they start receiving duplicate scarves, Lewis said.
While crocheting may seem like a daunting task to manage on top of school and everything else in her life – Lewis spends about 15 hours a week making scarves – she insists her contribution isn’t much.
“I don’t even have to look when I do it,” she said.
Lewis can now crochet a scarf in just a few hours, as opposed to the few weeks it would have taken when she first started selling them in October.
But she insists she doesn’t have the patience for crafts.
The first scarf Lewis ever crocheted, at the age of 15, “was terrible,” she said. “I never wore it again, and I thought it was a lost cause.”
It wasn’t until she met the man on the bus last winter that Lewis realized the difference she could make by learning to crochet something as simple as a scarf.
“You can do a lot with just an idea,” said Lewis.