Anniversary, Bequeaths, Donations

He just gave us his mom’s Wool Shop – De Breikorf! That Changed Everything.

It is exactly one year since the donation of our wool shop – The Treasure Trove – housed at Anna & Co in the SOZA building in The Hague. A bequeath from the son and husband of Door, the owner of the Breikorf in Voorburg. It was a donation that changed everything for Wool for Warmth because it transformed us from a hobby to a charity. This is the story.

18 April 2019, just before Easter, I saw an ad for wool for sale in Voorburg. The Breikorf wool shop had closed and they were selling a big box of wool for €35. I was excited and bought 1 shopping wagon and three large bags of new wool. I told the man about Wool for Warmth and left a flyer. The man told me that his wife had died and they had to close the shop. It was a brief contact. I remembering wishing that I had enough money to buy the Breikorf.

This was a lot of wool for €35. We did not know what was coming.

I remember wishing that I had enough money to buy the Breikorf

A couple of hours later, my phone rang and a man said he had “some conditions”

A couple of hours later, my phone rang and a man said he had “some conditions”. He said:

  • I needed a place to bring everything
  • He’s doing it to be nice, in memory of his mother
  • There are 10 big shelves, the entire contents of the wool shop
  • The lease expires 1 May 2019 so we have to move quickly
  • We need to do it all in 1 move
  • He has a van but I need to get people to help
  • He needs to leave the shop completely empty
  • It has to be done before 28 April because he had to go to Denmark for work.

Not your everyday phone call, but I have been in business long enough to grab a pen and write down everything he said. This phone call changed everything. I said “Yes! But I will have to figure out how to do it”.

It was the donation of Door van Nelfen’s wool shop, the Breikorf. The woolshop had been open for 39 years and Door and her husband Joop had been planning to retire after the shop’s 40th anniversary. But it was not to be. In March 2019, sadly Door died of lung cancer. Her husband Joop and son Eric were donating the entire contents of her wool shop to Wool for Warmth. This is the moment that changed my life. That changed the business. That changed everything because it turned the hobby of Wool for Warmth into a business. Unbeknownst to us, Eric had received a phone call from Masha Wight at The Kessler Stichting suggesting he donate the shop to Wool for Warmth. Eric said the gift is unencumbered. We can use it how we like.

I was overwhelmed. For 10 years, I had been trying to find a fabulous project that can get very big and create something magnificent. Something to make me jump out of bed in the morning.  I have tried lots of things. Worked very hard and had a couple of completely failed projects. Linda’s Wool was a hobby at this point and it was satisfying my philanthropic nature, but it was not full-time and certainly not a paying job. I was looking for a project that I could build into a career, trying to find a way that Linda’s Wool could create an income so I could do it all the time. And I wanted to hire other people. I wanted to build something big. But I was very low on resources. When I received Eric’s phone call and the donation of Door’s wool, I knew I had found what I was looking for. Adding Door’s Wool to Linda’s Wool was a game-changer.

Where do you put a wool shop? Especially over Easter weekend? I had no idea. I called everyone. Do you have a garage? Attic? Spare room? It was impossible because of the big heavy shelves. Some people offered to take bags of wool but no one had room for the furniture. Richard? Sonia? Agnes? Everyone wanted to help. And I looked at storage companies but they did not seem right. On the Tuesday following Easter, I had coffee arranged with Petra from Mijn Buuf and told her the story. And she introduced me to Melissa George from Anna & Co . Melissa had the solution. A 20sqm storage room that was vacant and she agreed to let me move in the next day. But I had to promise to move out by the end of May because someone else had a lease starting 1 June. A leap of faith on Melissa’s side. Unbelievable relief on my side. Just in time.

Wednesday we moved. My husband Patric and daughter Emma with Richard and Geordi (Linda’s husband and son) joined Eric and his van to move the wool shop. Luckily the Briekorf was just down the road from the SOZA building. Back and forth over a day and a half we moved. The cupboards were so heavy that they needed to be emptied of wool and the shelves removed and still took four men to lift. Backbreaking work. And the room was completely full.

One of many trips between the Breikorf and the Treasure Trove
Packing the full store
There was a lot to move!!
Joop showing one of the first wool kits they received from Patons
L-R: Richard, Eric, Jeordi, and Cathy during the move to the Treasure Trove

I felt sorry for Joop because we were tearing apart his wife’s life’s work. Stuffing wool in bags. Richard was able to provide a bit of comfort for Joop because was also a recent widower. Jeordi and Eric had both lost their moms. I was gaining everything and I wanted to do the best I could for everyone that donated and helped. They had had such tragic losses and I wanted to honour their mothers and wives.

This is when Eric the Sheep joined Wool for Warmth

And people came to help sort. And sort. And sort. We called them the “Sorting Elves” – Otto, Richard, Maria, Mia, Trude. They spent hours sorting wool and buttons and thread and other things. This is why we call it the Treasure Trove – every box revealed a new treasure.

It took about two months of thinking, sorting, reading, talking, and imagining and poking and prodding to find the idea that could become a business; the basis of expansion and income and publicity and permanence. I made a mind-map that has become a bit of a magic map because everything on it seems to come true.

Eventually it began to take shape. Wool was sorted onto the shelves. The business plan was written. And the rest, they say, is history. With the donation of Door’s Wool, Wool for Warmth began its journey from initiative to foundation. And Door joined Linda as one of the good spirits of Stichting Wool for Warmth.

One year later and we are still sorting. We have made thousands of scarves and donated thousands of items of used clothing. There are hundreds of volunteers knitting and crocheting away at home and in clubs.

One year later and we are still sorting. We have made thousands of scarves and donated thousands of items of used clothing. There are hundreds of volunteers knitting and crocheting away at home and in clubs. And now they are sewing medical masks for the corona virus.

Raquel, Cathy, and Priscilla sorting wool 1 year later
Eshete preparing boxes of donations of hats and scarves for homeless shelters in The Hague
Donations of wool and knitting come in faster than we can sort them.

I am not exaggerating when I say that it was unimaginable 1 year ago. And I am not exaggerating when I say that at Easter next year we will be just as amazed as we are now.

Thank you. Everyone.

There are 5 different ways you can help the homeless:

  1. Wool for Warmth works without subsidies and every month we need to raise €500. Please help by donating to our gofundme campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/f/knit-hats-and-scarves-for-the-homeless
  2. Contact us with donations of wool, knitting and crochet supplies, and knitting talent at woolforwarmth@gmail.com.
  3. Start a club? Email us at woolforwarmth@gmail.com.
  4. Spread the word. Homelessness is growing and we have a lot of work to do.
  5. Follow us on Facebook and LIKE our page https://www.facebook.com/woolforwarmth/?view_public_for=2231732456915792

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