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History of CGOA
by Gwen Blakley Kinsler,
Founder of the Crochet Guild of America
Ancient Roots, New Beginnings
As a passionate and determined crocheter in 1991, I began serious efforts to create the first, exclusive-for-crocheters conference. My motivation for undertaking such an event was not because I was an expert crocheter, but because I longed to learn from experts in a broader context. I waged a targeted marketing campaign during the many months leading up to the event that included producing a newsletter that brought attention not only to local crocheters willing to help, but also to crocheters from as far away as Alaska! The Chain Link crochet conference, “Ancient Roots, New Beginnings,” took place in Chicago in August 1994. It was a right-place-at-the-right- time experiment that meant so much to me.
Working with a local volunteer, Dana Kahan Benjamin, we planted the seeds that grew and blossomed into the first chapter even before the conference took place. Known as the Northern Illinois Chapter (NIC), we celebrated our 20th anniversary, along with CGOA, in 2014. Many of the NIC members have served and continue to serve in leadership roles both locally and nationally.
From Concept to CGOA
At that first conference, 90 participants jointly established the concept of an organization exclusively for crocheters. The spirit of volunteerism was evident from the efforts of those who cared; they wanted nothing in return except the camaraderie they found while among folks with similar crochet passion. Generous volunteers created the next conference; held this time in New Jersey. There in 1995, attendees officially voted to establish CGOA. Bylaws were written and, in October 1995, 501(c)(3) non-profit status was granted. As strong today as it was from the start, “The mission of CGOA shall be to create an environment which provides education, networking, resources, and a national standard for the quality, art, and skill of crochet through creative endeavors which preserve the heritage of crochet.”
An organization run and managed by volunteers during its first 10 years, CGOA is what it is today because of the countless hours given by dedicated members. They brought expertise to the many important functions of the organization: leadership, networking, PR, teaching, business, etc. Innovative ideas, we now take for granted, were conceived and nurtured ensuring that CGOA would evolve and grow as an important, vibrant organization.
Our history as a volunteer organization is important and inspiring. These are some of the many accomplishments and events that have taken place over the years: by-laws; CGOA logo and brochure; professional newsletter, official crochet magazine; annual crochet conference; online message board; CGOA-sponsored tours to Ireland & Wales; annual International teacher; member discounts and gift memberships; a website; National Crochet Month; juried art exhibits and crochet contests; industry sponsorships, door prizes, goody bags; commemorative hooks; hospitality suite/crochet lounge; crochet-themed notecards; professional exhibit display, Professional Development Day; Masters of Crochet designation; CGOA pattern line; flyer for local yarn stores: ”Thirty Ways to Promote Crochet;” I Can Crochet Girl Scout patch and many more in the realm of social media.
Our Enduring Legacy
Thankfully, our beloved CGOA does not remain static. We have been led by talented board members, mentored by yarn industry professionals, nurtured and cared for by thousands! The yarn/craft industry has supported us generously; and we will be forever indebted to the Craft Yarn Council which provided our day-to-day business support (1997-2002); Reach Unlimited (2002-2003); Offinger Management Company (2003-2017); and now Celtic Chicago (2017). Today, CGOA is still the ONLY organization exclusively for crocheters.
“Times have not always been easy for the many volunteers who have worked tirelessly toward common goals; but, like me, they surely feel their efforts have been worthwhile. I am deeply grateful to the many past volunteers as well as to those yet to give of their talents to the exciting future of CGOA.” *
Our CGOA history continues to unfold; and it is my hope that the knowledge and memories of the past will endure and be honored. We learn from history, both its successes and failures. It is by acknowledging our past and adapting to our present that future volunteers will be able to lead us successfully and ensure that our legacy endures.
*Excerpted from 2002 “History of the CGOA of America” by Gwen Blakley Kinsler.