Jenn Ellis is a 2nd grade teacher in Essex Junction, Vermont. She is also a huge fan of Vermont senator, Bernie Sanders. Teaching, Bernie Sanders, and there’s one other passion in Ellis’ life. Can you guess what it is? She makes mittens.
When Bernie Sanders lost the bid to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, Jenn Ellis was crushed. She wanted to do something to let him know she was thinking about him, so she sent him a pair of cozy, brown and white mittens she had made. Miss Jenn told a reporter for the Washington Post, “I totally remember the night I did it. I was thinking to myself, ‘Is this crazy? I don’t even know this guy.’ But I wanted to make them for him, so I did.”
Well, Bernie loves those mittens. He has worn them ever since, including at the inauguration of President Biden, where he was surrounded by people in fancy, expensive clothes—designer dresses and suits costing thousands of dollars—while he sat in his folding chair in his khaki parka and a pair of fuzzy, handmade mittens.
Since then, Bernie’s mittens have become famous. They have been shown and talked about more than any other piece of clothing worn on the Capital balcony that day, even more than Lady Gaga’s splashy red dress. People have cut out the picture of Bernie and his mittens, and photoshopped him into all sorts of funny places—among cows in a grassy field, into famous paintings, sitting next to Spiderman and on the lanai with The Golden Girls.
It seems that mitten madness is just beginning. Jenn Ellis has now partnered with Vermont Teddy Bear to sell "Bernie mittens,” and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to benefit Make-A-Wish Vermont. In the two weeks since they became a meme, Ellis' mittens have already raised funds for local organizations. A pair of mittens she gave Outright Vermont, sold for $20,000 at a charity auction. Sanders’ team has been selling sweatshirts with his iconic inauguration day look, mittens front and center, and have raised almost $2 million for Meals on Wheels Vermont. Ellis says excitement over her mittens have reminded her why she created them in the first place. “When you give of yourself -- if you give of your kindness or your time -- that comes back to you as joy," she said.
Let’s all get out there, share our gifts and not only spread, but also reap some joy.