Becoming connected with the Anandaban Hospital in Nepal through Baton Rouge native and research scientist Deanna Hagge, the group has been able to spread their reach to people far from the Capital City. “We try to do the hats as colorfully as we can,” says Elaine Forbes, one of the members of Crafting for a Cause. “The louder the colors, the better they like them.” Photos Courtesy Linden Langberg.

Giving back: Crafting for a Cause

On a cold day in Kathmandu, Nepal, the children and adults of The Leprosy Mission’s Anandaban Hospital are kept warm by colorful wool hats. Standing in stark contrast to the store-bought apparel more often donated, these hats are each unique, with different patterns and embellishments, and each straight from the hands of a small group of women across the world at the Pride-Chaneyville Branch of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library.

“There is something so special about making a gift with your hands,” says Linden Langberg, who started what has come to be known as Crafting for a Cause somewhat incidentally about 10 years ago when a few friends asked her to teach them to crochet. “Even if you don’t know the recipient, when you give a gift that you made and that you spent time on, you are giving more than a hat or scarf, you are giving a gift of love.”

Joining forces with Deanna Hagge, a Baton Rouge native who currently lives in Nepal working as a research scientist at the hospital, Langberg has expanded her group’s mission across the globe, demonstrating the power of gestures that transcend language.

“Leprosy patients are often ostracized from their communities or even abandoned by their families due to their diagnosis or permanent disabilities left from having leprosy,” says Hagge. “In my very basic Nepali, I will tell them that grandmothers and mothers in the USA made the hats for them. It’s a practical gift that tells them someone was thinking of them. And alongside the free care we provide from donor support, it speaks that they are cared for and valued.”

The women of Crafting with a Cause receive almost all of their yarn from donations, and they sell items at the annual Pride-Chaneyville Community History Day to buy wool for the hats they send to Nepal.

While the Crafting for a Cause group now meets weekly to make the hats, scarves, blankets and more for people in need in Nepal, as well as in Louisiana, the original motive behind the meetings had nothing to do with philanthropy.

“We started by just sitting in the middle of the library and working on projects like baby booties that we thought would be easy,” says Langberg, noting with a laugh that the small shoes turned out to be anything but simple. “Slowly, people started joining and we started to build up a stockpile of items. Our families didn’t want any more hats or scarves, so we had to find something to do with all the things we were creating.”

That’s when the women came up with the idea to reach out to places like the Louisiana War Veterans Home, local battered women’s shelters, the Pregnancy Problem Center, neonatal intensive care units, nursing homes and more that could benefit from not only the blankets, hats and socks themselves, but from the love and care that goes into their creation.

“Handmade gifts come from the heart,” says Langberg. “It takes real time to produce something with your hands, and the person who receives whatever the item is gets a piece of the person who made it—a piece of their creativity, passion and love.”

The women who make up the Crafting for a Cause group say they receive those same gifts from one another by working together. “We call our weekly meetings our therapy sessions,” notes Langberg. “We have women with retired husbands who just want to get out of the house, widows who don’t want to be home alone, and, lately, we have had a growing number of breast cancer survivors.”

Together, the women have grown relationships through the joy of an old-fashioned hobby. Talking through life’s daily struggles and triumphs all while keeping their hands occupied with yarn, the group’s fellowship shines through their garments and serves to attract more people to their craft.

“Crochet takes us away,” says Langberg. “In a world where everything is digital, it can be so rewarding and fulfilling to work with an actual physical thing and produce something you can hold and share. It keeps the brain happy.”

Crafting for a Cause meets every Thursday at 1 p.m. at the East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s Pride-Chaneyville Branch. Anyone is welcome to join.