You'll see miniature houses pinned on a lot of lapels in Baltimore these days.
The charming pins of colorful, laminated houses cost $10 each and represent security, coziness and the American Dream, says Lucinda Yates, creator of the original artwork.
The pins are hot-selling items at fund-raisers sponsored by local non-profit groups to benefit homeless women and children.
Since January, the Women's Housing Coalition, a local nonprofit group, has sold 5,500 pins and earned $22,000. The coalition expects to earn another $4,000 before Christmas from the pins. The money will be used to find housing for at least 34 poor or homeless women.
"I was not surprised because they're so unique and affordable," said Laura Chambers, executive director of the WHC, who owns 10 pins. "Once people see them, they do want them."
"There's a lot of magic in them, I'll tell you that," said Ms. Yates, the Maine artist who designs and makes the pins and donates 40 percent of each sale to the nonprofit group that sells them.
Altogether, 30 nonprofit agencies in the Baltimore metropolitan area sell Ms. Yates' socially conscious jewelry that includes a stick-figure "people pin" for people-oriented service agencies and a book pin for literacy groups.
The house pins come in different shapes, but each one is no larger than a silver dollar. There are colonial and Victorian-style houses and apartment buildings flanked by palm trees, stars, flowers and large hearts. Some have glittery backgrounds and others are bright red and black.
Ms. Yates, who designs costume jewelry, has been making the pins since 1989. She said her products took off after the pins were featured in a 1990 article in Better Homes and Gardens magazine. About 25,000 were sold after the article appeared.
In all, she's sold 750,000 pins and grossed $4.5 million.
"It started at my kitchen table, moved to the attic and then moved into an office," Ms. Yates said. "I was living and breathing house pins.
"There has never been any advertising for these. The product does all the advertising," she said.