Tucked away in a corner of the Sacramento Food Bank's second floor, surrounded by mountains of boxes and crates, a door with a plaque reading "Cut Ups" leads to a small room filled with balls of yarn and piles of colorful fabric.
Inside, a half-dozen women are hard at work, sewing and ironing. They're volunteers for Cut Ups of Northern California, a nonprofit with a storied history but an uncertain future.
For nearly 40 years, Cut Ups has designed, sewed, knitted and crocheted all manner of tote bags, blankets, quilts, toys, robes, hats and stuffed animals, and donated them to Sacramento-area people in need. Recipients include homeless shelters, veterans facilities, Birth & Beyond family resource centers and the Sacramento Children's Home.
“It’s crazy – these folks, they will help anyone," said Val Heimerich, a Cut Ups volunteer involved in outreach, who estimated the nonprofit has donated about 40,000 pieces to different charities.
Now, the group needs some charity of its own. The Sacramento Food Bank, which has allowed Cut Ups to use some if its current space, decided it needs more room, and has told Cut Ups to leave by the end of June, Heimerich said.
Cut Ups wants to publicize its crisis, in hopes of attracting a benevolent business or office building with a room for rent.
The catch? The group can only afford to pay $250 per month.
Still, hosting a tax-exempt charitable organization like Cut Ups could potentially earn a tax write-off for a business, Heimerich said.
It's “very good press for the business, because there’s no downside to it," she said.
Cut Ups, which is constantly seeking new volunteers, wants about 1,400 square feet of space in a safe area of the city, ideally within 10 miles of its current location on Bell Avenue on the northern edge of Sacramento near McClellan Park.
"They’re not looking for something fancy," Heimerich explained. It just "has to be functional."
If they can't find a savior, Cut Ups' 30 volunteers have been promised the use of a temporary space by a private party, Heimerich said, but it will be for a few months at most.
Betty Newell, the organization's energetic, 95-year-old president is not ready to close up shop.
"We want to keep on doing it ... for another 40 years," Newell said. "We just desperately need a place."
Cut Ups doesn't just help others – it gives more meaning to volunteers' lives, as well.
Volunteers “talk about how important this is to them," Heimerich said. “This keeps them going.”
Newell said one 97-year-old volunteer told her recently how crucial it is for Cut Ups to continue to function.
Newell said she's in a care home but helps out by sending in materials like blocks every day.
"She said, 'What will I do if you close up?' "