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How a group uses yarn and macrame to raise awareness for homeless veterans

Art around Orlando brings attention to important issue

ORLANDO, Fla. – There's a certain type of vintage art that's making a comeback to the city beautiful, and it's adding color and positive messages around trees and even electrical poles. 

With a hook needle and balls of yarn, Jennifer Parrish makes colorful mandalas and what she calls monster feet. It's a pastime that's gone public in parks and libraries -- one she says makes her happy because she sees it's making a difference in more ways than one.

"It's just great to see the community and families interacting with the art. For me, it's just unexpected and it just kind of brings your attention, maybe, to some nature, which I think is great. I've seen some people post it on social media. That's what makes me happy," Parrish said.

Parrish said the art has the ability to do something special.

"Bring people together, a sense of community -- a bit of whimsy fun -- for people to see, look at and enjoy," Parrish said.

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It's a similar skill she shares with Victoria Walsh, who creates macrame designs, some of which can be seen around Mills 50 and other parts of Orlando. 

Walsh agrees the art has a lot to offer the city.

"I've grown up my whole life wanting to see more art in Orlando and it's happening. Some of our museums are recognizing it now, but not in the way of fiber bombing, which is getting out there in the public -- in public spaces. It's popular up north, it's popular in other countries, but not so much here in Orlando, so I decided to just start doing it," Walsh said.

It's a skill she learned a couple years ago, but Walsh said for her, it's more than making knots. 

Her macrame serves a purpose through the Central Florida Yellow Ribbon Project, which raises awareness for homeless veterans.

"We're echoing that Tony Orlando song, 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Ole Oak Tree,' "Walsh said.

Walsh said they have three locations with installations up throughout Central Florida. The first was at the Art and History Museum of Maitland.

"That museum also carried it at other installations throughout Central Florida, including Lake Lillies location and our most recent one at UCF," Walsh said about the impact her project is having in the community. 

Most recently, with help from about 100 people, both women wrapped trees at Colonialtown Square Park to kick off pride month.

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"People are noticing fiber bombing as a way to raise awareness for a cause and now I was also able to do this for something else that's important to me -- equal rights. This whole project in this field, in conjunction with Jennifer's project, is just the start, I think, of something growing in Orlando where we can do something, we can get together and we can rally together and make a difference right here at home," Walsh said.

The Central Florida Yellow Ribbon Project collects donations like personal and feminine hygiene products, clothing and nonperishable food. They said donated bus passes for veterans have also been helpful. 

Anyone who wants to make a donation can give directly to the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida or drop off items at the University of Central Florida history department and the Veterans' Affairs office. 

Walsh said she's already getting ready for the next tree-wrapping display, which is set to take place Nov. 15 at Lake Lilly Park in Maitland.

For more information about the project, visit its official website.


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