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Many hands will be warmer this winter, thanks to a record-breaking year for 28th annual Mitten-Plus drive in Holland, Mich. More than a dozen participating Christian Reformed churches collected 2,374 handmade and store-bought winter items—from pairs of mittens to hats and sweaters—easily beating the previous record by over 300 items.

Mitten-Plus drive volunteers stand with the record 2,374 donated items: L-R: Carolyn Bareman, Mary Konynenbelt, Jo Katerberg, Gertrude Bomers, Gloria Bomers, Connie Petroelje, Jenny Sytsma, Mary Hossink, Alice Genzink, Marilyn Dykstra.

(Photo by Barb Vander Haak)

When all the items were collected on November 26, it became apparent that 2011 was going to be a banner year. Barb Vander Haak, from Graafschap (Mich.) CRC, coordinates the drive each year and has knitted for the cause since its inception.

As the donations came in, “I was totally amazed,” she said. Those dropping off contributions from the various churches could not explain the increased numbers. Vander Haak told them, “We don’t ask why. We just say thank you.”

Graafschap CRC alone donated 600 items—twice as many as they normally contribute. Many of those were handmade by the church’s weekly knitting group, which used donated funds given in memory of a long-time supporter of the mitten drive to purchase 18 skeins of yarn, resulting in 40 knitted items.

Vander Haak and 10 other volunteers—there is never a shortage of volunteers—enjoyed the time counting, sorting, and packing the winter wear while admiring the array of patterns and designs.

The items were then distributed to 12 charities in West Michigan, including House of Mercy, The Other Way Ministries, and the Center for Women in Transition, as well as Roseland Ministries in Chicago.

The Mitten-Plus drive began in response to a need presented to the Missionary Union board in Holland in 1984. That year the drive netted 472 items.

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