• How did you become involved in the project or cause?
I have been a knitter since I was 12 - about 40 years ago! In 1999, I read about Project Linus in our Sunday newspaper insert - a national 100% volunteer organization which comforts children suffering any type of trauma through handmade blankets.
• How did you translate your hobby into something special for the community or an organization?
Because there is only so much any individual can knit for their own family before relatives say, "Enough!", I inquired about starting a Project Linus chapter in my community. Knitting is my "come-down" method of relaxing at the end of the day and, often, it's the process rather than the actual finished product which gives the most satisfaction.
I initiated a local chapter of Project Linus in March of 2000 and the first donation of 5 blankets was given to our local hospital shortly thereafter. As my chapter grew, so did other related activities - a friend and I began an after-school knitting program in 2 elementary schools which was also a volunteer effort from the instructors to the donated materials. (See how the class became involved with Project Linus on a very personal level as the last item in the Blanket Buzz archive at www.projectlinus.org) Today, I am also employed by Hancock's Fabrics (a Lion Brand retailer) and, as part of my duties, instruct knitting classes. I will also teach additional knitting classes next fall at a local technical college and have begun a weekly knitters gathering in a local coffee shop.
Now our Rock Valley - Janesville Project Linus chapter has well over 300 participants and we have distributed over 2,100 blankets to 23 facilities serving children. Participating facilities and agencies distributing our blankets to children include: Project Linus - Janesville serves the following area facilities and agencies which include the South Central Wisconsin cities of Janesville, Beloit, Milton, Jefferson, Fort Atkinson, Whitewater and Monroe : American Red Cross, Mercy Hospital, Dean/Riverview Clinic, HospiceCare, Respite Care, Children’s Service Society, AIDS Network, Salvation Army, House of Mercy, Janesville Police Department, Janesville Fire Department, Beloit Memorial Hospital, Rock Co. Foster Care, Fort Atkinson Memorial Health Services, Alternatives (YWCA Domestic Abuse Services), and the Overton-Lynch-Whitcomb Funeral Home
• What Lion Brand yarn did you use?
I have used a variety of Lion Brand yarns from the simple worsted yarns to Homespun. My favorite are the Wool Ease for texture and colors. Those who donate yarns and tools to our chapter often choose Lion Brand products.
• How many items does your group make in a month or a year?
This varies quite a bit but today generally there can be about 100 blankets - of all types - each month or more.
• How much time do you and/or your group dedicate to the charitable project?
Individual participation by volunteers is unknown and greatly variable. However, I would estimate my time involvement is usually 40-hours a month or more from personally knitting blankets to chapter organizational business such as publishing our newsletter, answering inquiries, labeling the incoming blankets and then distributing them.
• How many people have benefited?
Just as we have created and distributed more than 2,100 blankets now, each child receiving a blanket has benefited and their families have also benefited. Occasionally, a parent of a child who receives a Project Linus blanket, in turn, becomes a volunteer to continue helping other children. Thus, this is not just a benefit to the child but also to the participating volunteers.
• What would you say to other knitters or crocheters to encourage them to lend their hands to a cause-related effort?
I not only stress the comfort and caring a blanket provides for children undergoing tramatic events or illness in their lives but also the personal satisfactions from volunteering - from participating in a relaxing and restful activity, as well as, the benefit of learning new skills and meeting a new community of people with similar interests.
• Has the local media reported on your project?
They have published press releases when we have achieved milestones such as 500 and 1,000 blankets, as well as, announcing our chapter gatherings such as the annual blanket making day. This past year our Make-A-Blanket Day was held in a local middle-school gymnasium and generated a total of over 200 blankets.
• If you know, how has your work affected the people for whom you have made donations.
Upon delivering blankets to our local hospital one day, I was stopped in the hallway by a doctor who asked, "Are you the blanket lady?" When I responded that I was, he related how beautiful the blankets are and how much the blankets are appreciated by the staff, as well as, his little patients. He noted that often children undergoing painful medical situations are agitated and difficult to quiet. When they receive their new blanket, they are immediately calmer and this facilitates the medical care the staff can then provide.
I recently also heard from a family of a blanket recipient. Their dying daughter was part of a local hospice program. She had received a Project Linus blanket which she took everywhere. When she died, her younger sister asked to keep the blanket and continues to cherish it as a "part" of her older sister.
The local Red Cross has related when they are on the site of an in-process house fire and give children Project Linus blankets, quite often the child will not just wrap the blanket around their shoulder but also find a dry spot on the ground where they can lie down and completely cover from head-to-toe so they don't have to see their home burning.
There are many other heart-wrenching and heart-warming stories which are related back to me which verify the value of the Project Linus mission and how dramatically individual knitters, crocheters and quilters can impact the lives of others through their simple crafts.