By Matthew Nash
Olympic Peninsula News Group
SEQUIM — One idea and a kind gesture have grown into a significant revenue stream to help local animals through the Peninsula Friends of Animals.
For 11 years, since 2006, Carol Gearey, co-founder of the organization’s potholder program, along with a dedicated team, has created thousands of potholders and raised more than $180,000 for the cageless, no-kill shelter.
“I’m surprised it’s lasted this long,” Gearey joked. “I thought they’d be saturated by now.”
But she’s certain her team’s Peninsula Friends of Animals (PFOA) potholders are being used across the globe as they’ve been sold across the North Olympic Peninsula to locals and visitors.
Gearey and her best friend Lori Miller — who now lives in Wenatchee — started the effort after Miller’s sister-in-law showed her how to make the potholders.
“We thought, ‘Let’s see if we can make some potholders and if people will buy them and give any money we make to PFOA,’” Gearey said.
Gearey, who was working at the time, said she was thinking of different ways she could volunteer and help the organization and “this fit the bill.”
So the friends started in January 2006 selling them to family and friends and by March 2006 had raised more than $800. By the end of the first year, they had raised nearly $5,000.
In the second year, they recruited volunteer Sue Cram and in the third year slowly began adding more people to sew and/or cut fabric.
“We’ve got it down to a science, so we don’t want to expand too much,” Gearey said.
“Obviously, it’s our bread and butter,” Cram said.
Last year, the group made about 1,200 pairs of potholders.
However, group members do make other items such as tote bags, bowl holders and hot pads, with proceeds all benefiting the organization.
Now, the group meets in “Potholder Central” at a group member’s home once a month to work and turn in projects.
Most of the fabric is donated and volunteers need regular-weight sewing thread and 100 percent cotton fabric large enough to cut at least two 9-inch squares.
The potholders are sold Peninsula-wide at special events. Volunteers Lynda and Jim Larison set up each booth for events such as bazaars and festivals.
A booth is planned at this weekend’s Vern Burton Christmas Fair, planned from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Vern Burton Community Center, 308 E. Fourth St. in Port Angeles.
The following weekend, a booth will sell potholders at the second annual Frosty’s Winter Fest from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 10 at Fifth Avenue/Sherwood Assisted Living, 500 W. Hendrickson Road in Sequim.
Proceeds from the holiday festival sales will be used toward specialized care medical expenses for recent rescues, according to Peninsula Friends of Animals.
Among companion animals with special medical needs are Daphne and Homer, said Danette Grady, executive director of the shelter.
Daphne, a Yorkie, came to the shelter with infected ears and eyes, bad knees and ongoing pancreatitis.
“She will have a lengthy recovery in a loving foster home,” Grady said.
Homer, a Maine coon mix rescued by a good Samaritan after being hit by a car, has a fractured pelvis and needs continuing X-rays and medical care, she said.
“These are a few of our many rescues who will benefit from the potholder sales proceeds,” Grady said.
The potholders also are sold at the shelter, 257509 U.S. Highway 101, Port Angeles, and in stores such as Hair Trix, Forage Gifts &Northwest Treasures and Mia Bella in Sequim; Wild Birds Unlimited in Gardiner; The Old Post Office in Carlsborg; George Washington Inn in Agnew; and 7 Cedars Casino in Blyn.
Volunteers to sell potholders are needed. For more information on volunteering, contact Grady at 360-452-0414, ext. 3, and for more information on the dinner benefit and the organization, call 360-452-0414, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.safehavenpfoa.org.
Peninsula Friends of Animals’ mission is “to prevent the birth of unwanted cats and dogs through progressive spay/neuter and educational programs; and to place as many homeless, neglected and abused animals into good, safe, permanent homes,” according to its website.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at email@example.com.