A community initiative started by a group of knitting enthusiasts to support vulnerable residents during the pandemic, which has grown to reach thousands of people across Essex has received a social value award from Essex County Council.
The Hug in a Shrug project was born from the 2020 Christmas Giving Project in Castle Point, run by the Essex social movement, United in Kind. Volunteer knitters sent out knitted gifts to connect with vulnerable people and help keep them warm. Driven by Provide Community as part of the Essex Wellbeing Service, the project has spread across Essex, with volunteers meeting three times a week to knit blankets, shawls, and lap blankets.
This month, the project was recognised in Essex County Council’s Social Value celebration event, recognising the contributions of caring individuals and organisations across the county.
Ellen Van Gemmert, Essex Wellbeing Service Strategic Lead said: “It was an honour and a surprise to win the Social Value Award as part of Essex County Council’s Social Value Celebration event.
“Hug in a Shrug is driven by the Essex Wellbeing Service United in Kind campaign, a social movement to tackle loneliness in Essex which is supported by external partners across the county.
“Hug in a Shrug has become a cornerstone for the Thundersley community, touching lives across generations – from newborns to our oldest resident aged 106 years! This project is more than knitting, it’s about knitting together a community with compassion and shared purpose.”
Notably, the initiative has proven to be a crucial support system for housebound individuals and has knitted more than 2000 items over the last three years. Recognising the potential and impact of the project, the Essex Wellbeing Service is now exploring ways to replicate this model and inspire similar social groups across the county.
Ellen added: “The success of Hug in a Shrug lies in the selfless contributions of every volunteer and the support of the local community. These dedicated individuals not only offer their time and talent but also personal resources like wool and yarn, making their contributions true gifts of kindness.”