Sisters Mackenzie and Kate Martin created MK Blanket Wraps, a nonprofit that distributes handmade blankets to homeless shelters.
By Ri’An Jackson
Featured photo via Justin Milhouse
Royal Oak sisters Mackenzie and Kate Martin established the blanket-making nonprofit, MK Blanket Wraps, after an encounter with a homeless man a few years ago.
“We saw a man standing on the corner of 12 Mile and Woodward, and we brought him a lunch but we thought, ‘What else can we do to help people that are in his same position?’ ” says Mackenzie, a 16-year-old junior at Detroit Country Day School.
So, the girls decided to start MK Blanket Wraps. This blanket-making nonprofit provides handmade blankets to the homeless in Metro Detroit. Using sewing skills learned from their grandma, they create their cape-like blankets. They are designed to keep someone warm and protected from the elements.
“My mom was wearing a poncho that day which is where we got the idea for the wrap,” Mackenzie says. “We decided to make it out of fleece and then add pockets. We wanted the blanket wrap to be functional and to stay over big coats.”
In 2016, the sisters transformed their basement into a sewing room, started a Facebook page and website and the nonprofit kicked off.
Using blizzard fleece fabric, the girls work together to create the blankets. Kate cuts the pattern for the blankets and pins the pockets. Mackenzie sews everything together and adds their logo on the pocket with puffy paint. They can produce three to four blanket wraps in an hour and a half.
The girls design a unique shopping experience for the homeless instead of simply donating the blankets. Every two weeks in the winter, they bring the blanket wraps to homeless shelters like the Genesis House or South Oakland Shelter on rolling racks and allow people to choose their favorite blankets.
“We really want them to pick out something that is them,” Mackenzie says. “A lot of the time homeless people are just handed donations, which is great, but it is important they get to pick out something they love.”
Along with the nonprofit, the girls are devoted to various sports and clubs at their schools. They find time during the weekends and summer months to make the blankets.
So far, they have sewn and distributed 650 blanket wraps to homeless people in Metro Detroit. This past summer they also taught sewing classes at local shelters.
“We hear a lot of peoples’ stories when we hand them out,” says Kate, 14. “It feels great. It encourages us to do more because we see how appreciative the people are, and we just want to continue to help.”
They strive to connect as many people to their nonprofit as possible. On MLK Day, Kate taught a sewing class at Royal Oak Middle School. They made over 100 mittens for the homeless in Detroit.
“Their goals and self-sufficiency (are) amazing. When they get money, they go out and buy more fleece,” says Grosse Pointe resident Melissa Bunker, a friend of the Martin family. “…They are incredible role models for other young people.”
Mackenzie and Kate are 2019 SEEN Young Changemakers. Read more about the finalists: