Verve was proud to support the Salford Veterans Community Centre C.I.C at the Salford Armed Forces Day at St Thomas’s Church, Salford. The Armed Forces Day gave us the opportunity, for the first time, to showcase the beautiful dress of poppies. This dress was a vision created for the Salford Veterans Community Centre C.I.C.’s window display, and it was the dress that single-handedly brought the ‘Ladies who Knit’ together again.
Verve Ambassador Claire Marie Street and I spoke together about the new Salford Veterans Community Centre. The centre will be opening soon in Eccles, Manchester, and will have a 1940’s theme inspired cafe. Also, the Community Centre is a venture between Greater Manchester Police, Veterans of the Armed Forces and the local community; therefore, we must represent every part of our community. And, for anyone who knows any of us in Verve, this includes representing the women of our community too!
The ‘Dress of Knitted Poppies’ is symbolic of how women come together through hardship.
We wanted something that would reflect the amazing women in our community and their efforts during hardships; this was especially true now; sadly, because of Covid. But, I also know the kindness and generosity of our ‘Ladies who knit. These ladies have knitted baby clothes, toys and blankets to support Mums and their Babies during the lockdown.
So, maybe I will ask them if they could knit poppies to create a fantastic outfit for our window display? After all, the outfit needed to reflect the grace of women in an era where women were stylish and elegant; for us, poppies are the height of beauty.
Also, these women would never let their men down; they were stylish women, regardless of what they were going through. So, we created a new campaign that symbolised the tenacity of women’s spirit, with the style and elegance of the times. But, equally, these were women who came together and often supported each other through hardship.
We needed to create an outfit to reflect their era.
Naturally, we wanted an outfit that would reflect the vision of this era; thus, the beautiful dress of knitted poppies came to life.
Finally, we launched the Knitting Poppies campaign on Social media and subsequently, the ‘Ladies who Knit’ came out in force. It wasn’t long before the first of the poppies started to arrive back.
The ‘Ladies who knit’ are local ladies and women from as far as the Isle of Wight; however, they all saw our vision and knitted poppies to help us fulfil it.
The ‘Ladies who knit’ symbolise women coming together to create beauty.
The beautiful dress of poppies, once a vision in our heads, began to become a reality. Claire painstakingly attached every poppy knitted for us to the skirt of the dress she had chosen. And over time, the vision started to manifest itself.
The outfit we had visualised subsequently reflected the uniform of her partner; she did not let her man down. Yet, it was the opposite; the dress of poppies was a symbol of strength.
A strength replicated by the ‘Ladies who knit’ symbolises women coming together; to create beauty in difficult times for the Salford Veterans Community Centre and The Armed Forces Day.
Claire Marie Street, a woman with a vision.
Claire is the Armed Forces Ambassador for Verve and also a Director of the Salford Veterans Community Centre. She has the vision to give care for all vulnerable Veterans. Claire ensures they have support and healthy food throughout lockdown, delivered by the friendly faces of the people they know and love.
Claire works together with a team of amazing ladies, many of whom are her family and friends, and who all care passionately about our Armed Forces Veterans. These ladies regularly create fundraisers to ensure that every vulnerable Veteran at Christmas time has a Xmas Food Hamper and delivery of home-cooked Christmas meals.
Claire and her fellow volunteers have worked tirelessly to create the Salford Armed Forces Day event, and its success was a testimony to the determination of Claire and her unwavering support for Veterans in her community.
Yvonne Simms, a woman with a vision.
Yvonne Simms is an Ambassador for Verve, and like Claire, she has a vision. She runs the Salford Food Parcels and Holiday Hunger project in Salford, providing Food parcels for vulnerable families. Yvonne dedicates herself to ensuring that women and their families in poverty have healthy food.
Yvonne told me that she had heard about women who couldn’t get wool to knit clothes for their babies in the first lockdown.
Sadly, charity shops closed because of lockdown; these shops were usually the source of wool for knitting babies’ clothes, and they did not have the money to pay High Street prices.
More importantly, Covid was beginning to get a grip on us. Already vulnerable women were becoming increasingly more vulnerable because they couldn’t keep their babies warm. Therefore, Yvonne set about finding a way to get these women and their babies the help they needed.
The ‘Ladies who knit’ came together.
I listened as Yvonne told me about her vision, and I suggested to her, we should create a campaign to ask if anyone would mind knitting baby clothes? I subsequently wrote a blog and shared it on Social media, and the result has been tremendous.
As I lovingly refer to them, the‘ Ladies who knit’ came together, and we have had hundreds of knitted garments, blankets, and knitted toys donated to us.
The kindness of ladies in our community has been fantastic, they read what we wanted and why we wanted to do it, and subsequently, they did it. They had the backs of vulnerable women, and quietly, got on with helping them out so they could look after their babies.
These ladies became friends, and they are women I have admired. They were strangers who got together with one common aim, to help out because they could see what the problem was, and they wanted to do something about it.
The ‘Knitting for Babies’ and Knitting Poppies’ appeal is still going strong.
I am proud to say that both campaigns are growing in momentum; the number of knitted baby clothes, blankets, and toys increases every week. Kind-hearted ladies have sent donations from all over the UK; I have even had a lady from Ontario, Canada, wanting to help out!
We don’t know what impact Covid 19 will have on the future, and it is uncertain that this winter will be COVID free, regardless of what the politicians are trying to convince us. Therefore, I will stockpile the garments, and we will be ready for another winter; because Mum’s and their babies should not be vulnerable due to poverty.
Val Hogan; a woman with a vision.
When Yvonne and Claire share with me their visions, they resonate with me because I have a vision that no matter what, women should have each other’s backs at all times. I started Verve because I wanted to recruit foster carers for Not for Profit Charities after working with an Independent Fostering Agency.
I’m not going to get political about companies profiting from children in care, except to say it simply shouldn’t happen. However, Not for Profit Fostering Charities offer outstanding support to their foster carers and the children they support; more importantly, every penny profit they make is invested back into the support networks they provide to our community.
Children and babies deserve to have new clothes and toys.
Firstly, we need people who have each other’s backs and stop families from becoming vulnerable in the first place. Secondly, and more importantly, regardless of status or Coronavirus, babies deserve new clothes. Children deserve new toys, and Mum’s have enough to cope with by being in the middle of a pandemic to have to worry about how they can keep their children warm and fed.
My vision is that we come together as women, looking after each other as we have done for generations, and share our skills to keep families, wherever possible, together.
More importantly, our mental health is essential; therefore, we need to help each other to feel good about ourselves.
The ‘Ladies who Knit’ help because they feel they are doing something worthwhile.
There is an inherent need from many of the women I have spoken with about giving something back. Whether we were thinking about fostering, knitting baby clothes, volunteering or delivering Food Parcels, we make sure that everyone is okay.
Sadly, we have donated beautifully knitted bereavement blankets, and we are waiting for the team from the COVID wards of our local NHS Trust to collect them.
However, the mood is one of getting on with it and doing what needs doing, with the minimum fuss. More importantly, like the beautiful Dress of Poppies, we try to do it in style.
Because for most of us, we don’t have an abundance of much. However, we know what we can make from a little bit of wool; subsequently, we also know the happiness it can bring.
Please get in touch to help a child in need or inquire about the new Salford Veterans Community Centre, Salford Food Parcels or Verve. Thank you for all the support you have shown; we all appreciate it, and we will continue to do what we can when we can because we care!