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A pair of homemade mittens warms not only hands but also hearts, particularly when it is part of a service project.

Members of the University of Wisconsin-Stout Phi Upsilon Omicron – Tau Chapter made 17 pairs of mittens for children that they recently donated to the Wisconsin Foster Closet in Menomonie.

Members collected sweaters and fleece that they cut into hand shapes using a pattern. They then sewed the fabric together, using the fleece as a liner, and adding a cuff to make the mittens. Some of them included a button for added style.

The idea to make mittens came out of a brainstorming session by Phi Upsilon members, said chapter President Stephanie Pladies.

The Wisconsin Foster Closet was chosen because the club was looking for an organization it had not worked with in the past, Pladies added. The Wisconsin Foster Closet, 421 Cedar Ave. W., Menomonie, is a nonprofit organization that provides clothing and other needed items, such as toiletries for children coming into the foster care system.

“As a group we are a leadership organization with the goal of helping people through service,” said Pladies, a senior majoring in dietetics. “It was a fun project.”

Vice President Abby Marron, a senior majoring in early childhood education, said the project allowed for a lot of collaboration among the 30 members of the organization.

“We took a day where we got together, and all of us with some sewing ability worked together to see how to put the mittens together,” she said. “Everybody helped donate sweaters and helped cut out mittens. I loved doing this. I enjoy sewing, and this is something I don’t get to do in a regular class.”

The mittens were made in small or medium child sizes, Marron said.

Pladies held up one pair of brown tweed mittens. “The member who donated the sweater said it was an ugly sweater,” Pladies said, noting the project also allows for the reuse of sweaters and fleece. “I think the mittens are just cute.”

Lindsay Barnhart, adviser to the UW-Stout chapter of Phi Upsilon Omicron, said the project allowed students to take the lead in deciding what service project they wanted to engage in, giving them full ownership of it.

“It is great to see each member become involved in the project, either participating in a way that they are comfortable with or stretching outside of their comfort zone,” said Barnhart, director of the early childhood education program.

“The service project empowers our students to take a leadership role, connect with the community and make a difference in the lives of others. One thing I appreciate about the mittens is that you know they are handmade, adding extra warmth and comfort to the hands of young foster children,” Barnhart said.

LeAnn Swanson, vice president of Wisconsin Foster Closet, was on hand to receive the mittens. “They did a really good job on them,” Swanson said. “They even embellished some of them with small buttons and sequins.”

The mittens are needed for children, she noted. “They often end up pretty much leaving (for foster homes) with just the clothes on their back,” Swanson said.

Phi Upsilon Omicron is an honor society in the integrated field of family and consumer sciences and offers an environment empowering lifelong learning, leadership ability and scholastic excellence.

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