..all of us had not seen each other for a whole year -- and we would discover that somebody's barn had burned down, or somebody else had been in an auto accident, or someone's van had been broken into and they had lost all of their crafts.

Josh Simpson, co-founder of the Craft Emergency Relief Fund

The Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) got its start in 1985, when founders Carol Sedestrom Ross, then president of American Craft Enterprises, and glassblower Josh Simpson decided they wanted to tap into the inherent generosity that they had observed within the craft community. It was common practice at these fairs for exhibitors to "pass the hat" for fellow artists who were dealing with emergency situations. CERF was founded in an effort to formalize and build upon this simple grassroots gesture.

CERF spent the first couple of years raising funds and began awarding loans in 1987. In those days, loans were between $250 and $500. Since then our assistance has grown to grants of up to $6,000 and loans of up to $9,000. Over our 25+ year history, the organization has helped hundreds of professional artists working in craft disciplines with over $1.9 million in financial assistance, along with more than $400,000 in donated services such as booth fee waivers, equipment, and supplies. We have also developed programs to teach artists how to mitigate the effects of disaster. In 2010, to acknowledge our expanded role as an arts responder--providing both relief assistance and education about artist preparedness--we changed our name from CERF to CERF+.

Photos (L-R): Josh Simpson and Carol Sedestrom Ross