Bright Side Feature Stories

Ocean County YMCA’s Crochet Club Hosts First-Ever Made With Love Event The HOPE Center

The Ocean County YMCA partners with national nonprofit to provide warmth for those in need this winter.

[TOMS RIVER, NJ] —The Ocean County YMCA has proven once again that it is more than just a gym and swim center.

Through the years, the Y has continuously responded to various needs in order to serve the community.

Members of the Ocean County’s YMCA first-ever Made With Love Event (Photo provided)

That call has not changed in the New Year, in fact, it is stronger than ever as members of the Y’s Crochet Club hosted its first-ever Made With Love event at The HOPE Center in Toms River on January 6.

This initiative was made possible through the efforts of Warm Up America! – a national nonprofit based out of Dallas that spearheads the annual initiative.

“Made with Love has been going strong for seven years now here in Dallas,” said Jenny Bessonette, Executive Director of Warm Up America! “We are so thankful for our national volunteers who generously host their own Made With Love events across the country.”

Andrea Amante, Crochet Club Program Coordinator at the Ocean County YMCA says she is continuously humbled and amazed by the generosity and tenacity of the women in the crochet club. “When the Y, and the world at large, shutdown in March, they quickly adjusted to meeting via Zoom rather than put our activities on hold,” she said.

Over 1,600 Warm winter items were made to donate to those in need. (Photo provided)

When Amante suggested joining the Made With Love initiative with the goal of crocheting 1,000 items, the club got to work. “Not only did they tirelessly crochet projects, but they spread the word about our project far and wide,” she added. “As a result, the Ocean County YMCA Crochet Club was able to donate over 1,600 warm winter items to those in need in our community!”

Volunteers at The HOPE Center will distribute 850 items to families and individuals throughout the winter. The remaining 750 gifts of warmth have already been donated to local Code Blue Warming Centers and to a senior center. “Throughout the pandemic, these women have continued to meet virtually and work on various other projects,” said Peter T. Rosario, President & CEO of the Ocean County YMCA.  

Another important social initiative taken on during the pandemic was “CLICK for Babies: Crochet a Cap, Help Save an Infant”, which was organized by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome. “Ladies in our Crochet Club crocheted caps in all shades of purple that were distributed to new parents, along with a video and booklet about Shaken Baby Syndrome,” said Rosario.

The group also participated in the “Hooked on Crochet” initiative during Dr. Martin Luther King Week of Service by crocheting nests for the millions of displaced and injured birds being rescued and rehabilitated as a result of wildfires in Australia.

“We hope and pray that these projects not only provide physical warmth to those who receive them, but also spiritual and emotional support knowing that each one of these projects was handmade for them with love and kindness by their fellow neighbors,” said Rosario. “This is what the YMCA is all about – strengthening the foundations of community.”

To learn more about Ocean County YMCA or to make a donation, visit


Started in a small Wisconsin town with neighbors knitting and crocheting afghans for people in need, Warm Up America! is a charity that has warmed people’s lives since 1991.

Founder Evie Rosen came up with the idea of having volunteers knit or crochet small sections and then others join them together to make a full afghan, which quickly caught on.

Thanks to the generosity of knitters and crocheters around the country, today Warm Up America! distributes warm blankets, hats and other items to tens of thousands of people in need.

About The Hope Center

The HOPE Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization initiated by the Clergy Association of Greater Toms River. Its mission is to provide support, resources, referrals, food to clients as they work to overcome a current life crisis.

To learn more, visit

About the Ocean County YMCA

At the Y, we take immense pride in our work to strengthen communities and help all of us be our best selves. We provide a place to play, to learn, to be healthy, and to give back.

We believe that everyone, no matter who they are or where they are from, deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential. Everything the Y does is in service of making sure people and communities thrive.

The Ocean County YMCA in Toms River features the following onsite amenities: 6,800 sq. ft. functional wellness arena, cardiovascular center, 12 lane competitive size pool with access to adult and family locker rooms, and child watch room.

To learn more, visit

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