LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM)– After 21 years in Lancaster, the Bead Festival has leveled up.
For the first time ever, it expanded to add the Art, Yarn and Stitch fests. It gives groups such as Knit the Rainbow, a non-profit organization, the chance to expand their reach.
“Our primary mission is to collect hand-made knit and crochet winter garments from volunteers all over the country,” Austin Rivers of Knit the Rainbow said. “We collect them and distribute them in four different states for homeless and at-risk LGBTQ+ youth who have been kicked out of their homes or left their homes, so that we can keep them warm in the winter.”
Rivers started the effort in June 2020. The cause means a lot to him.
“I’m gay and black so I am a member of the LGBTQ community,” Rivers said. “I also know that black folks are disproportionately affected by the housing crisis. So my community was in need and that’s how I wanted to help.”
Many thousands of LGBTQ+ youth are homeless in the U.S. Rivers says more than eight thousand of them are in New York City, where he does most of his work. Plus, he’s got more expansion on his mind.
“I would love Knit the Rainbow to be a fully national organization. Right now we are in four states. I would love to hit all 50,” Rivers said. “Having youth that can be served and kept warm in all of the states would be really awesome.”
For Rivers, quality matters and he’s not doing all of this on the cheap. However, better fabric comes with a cost.
“This sweater that I’m making right now, I think I bought eight skeins to make this,” Rivers said. “That’s around $200 to $250.”
He says every stitch, every dollar and every experience like Stitch Fest are worth it.
“We have interacted with so many new people, a couple new yarn-shop owners that want to serve as new drop-off locations,” Rivers said. “It’s been such a great experience for us.”