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Knitted coffee cozies help R.I. families

It's not often that the Brown Bookstore sells products made by their customers. But a collective of Brunonian knitters has put their coffee cozies on sale in the same place where they buy their school supplies - with proceeds helping Rhode Islanders pay utilities bills.

"They look really cute and it's an original idea," said Carol Feliciano, who buys products for the Brown Bookstore. "I like anything that reduces waste and I also like what they've done with the proceeds going to the Salvation Army."

Sophia Li '11, Project HEALTH co-coordinator and Herald staff writer, said she realized last semester that local residents may need more help paying their utilities when a woman she met while volunteering told her that asking for financial assistance made her nervous. When the two called a utilities fund to help the woman pay her energy bill, they were told the fund and others like it had run dry.

"That was one of the most heartbreaking things for me," said Li, who started Close-Knit, the small business that creates and sells the cozies.

Li began thinking of ways to boost the energy funds. Amy Heuer '11, Li's roommate, taught Li how to knit last spring. So Li and a couple of friends began knitting coffee cozies to raise money for the Salvation Army's Good Neighbor Energy Fund, which helps struggling Rhode Island residents pay energy bills. Every dollar donated to the fund is matched by local energy companies, according to the fund's Web site.

Li called local stores this summer to see who would buy and sell the coffee cozies. The Brown Bookstore and Blue State Coffee bought 30 and 20 cozies, respectively. They began selling them within the past month for $6.

Feliciano said the bookstore already sold 19 of its 30 cozies and is going to order more.

Li, Heuer and Beth Spriggs '11 knit the cozies, which are meant to fit any standard coffee cup. All three make the cozies out of washable yarn, but each knitter has her own style. "We have mutual friends who can look and be like, Beth made that one, Sophia made that one and Amy made that one," Heuer said.

Other friends have pitched in. Melanie Garunay '11 created the business's Web site and Maria Macrina '11 helped by designing posters and tags for Close-Knit.

Heuer's initial knitting lesson may have been just for fun, but the students don't take their project lightly. "I'm very serious about what we're doing - we all are. And it's exciting," she said.



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