week-to-week to help fight poverty right here in Kent and in the area.” Haymaker Farmers’ Market already offers a table through the Kent State University Campus Kitchen program that shows how to make meals from foods offered by the vendors, including recipes and taste tests. But Kasper and Wang wanted to do more. Over a few months in the summer of 2013, Kasper—and now a growing group—birthed the SRS of Kent, designed to recycle unwanted fabric into items that could be sold locally, either to individuals or to area shops. And with the Sweatshop came Produce Perks, which went from monthly to weekly. “In 2016, the group raised more than $3,000 to offer the weekly Produce Perks match to
community members struggling with food insecurity,” said Andrew Rome, the manager of the Haymaker Market. “Looking around, we came to the idea that Kent was becoming a magnet for yoga studios,” Kasper said. Wang agrees. “So then, we looked at our first product, a very sturdy An Ohio Direction Card gets swiped and a client’s hand-made bag waits yoga bag, usually made for special tokens that mean more Produce Perks, fresh food for less! out of upholstery fabric,” said Wang, who often is storage areas for future use. All machines are seen at Saturday market selling the Sweatshop donated from friends of the Sweatshop and are wares. The yoga bags sold quickly at the market fixed through Rich Porter in Garrettsville. and at studios. “We knew we had some ‘sewers’ around, people who were always looking for a little project and to enjoy some ‘sisterhood’,” Kasper said.
Gould, long retired, was a willing Sweatshop organizer, but members are all ages, including an 11-year old, and at all stages of work/life.
“What we didn’t know is just how many things we could come up with to raise cash for the Produce Perks.”
“How can you resist? This is fighting poverty with sisterhood and fun! We develop new products and some of us knit small items and there you have it—cash for Produce Perks,“ Gould said.
Eye pillows are made of linen cloth and filled with locally grown herbs, like Kasper’s homegrown lavender and flax. Those started getting attention. Then, there were special requests for a few dollars—a mending job here or there. Any donations from those go back into the SRS Produce Perks fund. Catnip toys made of felt also are popular sales.
Mary Ann Kasper and Jennifer Wang wait for customers at the Haymaker Market.
Over the next summer, the group had gelled and were invited by Carol Gould to move their operations out of Mary Ann Kasper’s kitchen into Gould’s basement. There, they set up between 3—12 sewing machines, cutting tables, stuffing areas and jimmied hundreds of pounds of donated fabric into her garage and
Needing even more space while Carol travels, December found the SRS moving to Ree in Stitches, a home on Water Street that is owned by Ree, who sews for various commercial firms. Her second floor was open and she and Mary Ann Kasper, who has been called the SRS manager, teacher and inspirer, moved all the machines and extra fabric into the space. So why “Socially Responsible” in the name? Kasper said it aptly fits part of the group’s work—buying or taking “socially irresponsible” Continued on page 16
volume 13 | 2017 • www.aroundkent.net