For nearly eight years, hundreds of local “blanketeers” have been putting busy fingers to work, sewing blankets and quilts to help the needy.
But times are tough and lives are busier than ever – two challenges that are evident in emptying shelves where stacks upon stacks of Project Linus blankets once laid, ready to help those in need.
Project Linus, a national organization that provides security blankets to children, was founded in 1995 after Colorado resident Karen Loucks read an article about a young girl whose special blanket helped sooth her worries as she underwent chemotherapy. Fort Wayne’s chapter was founded in 2004 by Peggy Albertson.
Today, the local chapter uses the creative minds and fast fingers of more than 150 blanketeers, some who attend regular sewing events and others who ship blankets from across the county.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas, there are just a couple of wishes on the list for Project Linus, Albertson said. The organization is just one of many area nonprofits included in The Journal Gazette’s annual holiday charity giving list. The listing of needs for groups that help other during the holidays continues Saturday, with a special listing Sunday for animal organizations.
For Project Linus, the top need is blankets.
Lots of them.
In recent years, the group has been able to keep up with the increased need, Albertson said, but within the last month, shelves are looking bare.
“For the longest time it’s been 500 in, 500 out, and we were able to keep a back stock of about 200,” Albertson said. “I’ve started to panic a little because right now, those extras are gone.”
It’s a good problem to have, she said, knowing how many children benefit from the program, but it also means a shortage, just in time for the holidays. There are a few guidelines for the blankets – specifics about fabric, blanket sizes and other details – available on the organization’s website, www.projectlinus.org.
Thanks to a generous donation, there’s no shortage of fabric, but 4-ply yarn is always welcome, Albertson said.
The second request is monetary donations to buy a new air conditioning unit and help pay utility bills at the Salem United Church of Christ’s parsonage – home to Project Linus. Albertson said this is just a small way of giving back to the church that has done so much for the organization.
“It’s a great facility with a full basement and plenty of cutting tables,” Albertson said. “We’ve been so blessed.”
Pauline Sobona, who heads up the group’s Saturday sewing program, was a founding member of the city’s Project Linus program. Volunteers also meet on Wednesdays.
“It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I’ve met so many remarkably strong, skilled and creative women, and every one of them is so giving and loving,” Sobona said.
While Saturday sew dates typically include just women, there are a few men who drop blankets off or send them in the mail, Sobona said. The group is always ready to welcome new members, she added.
The organization recently celebrated an exciting victory – their 25,000th blanket delivered to an Allen County child, Albertson said.
“That’s 25,000 blankets since we started in April 2004,” she said. “We just got a proclamation from the mayor and everything.”
The declaration, signed by Mayor Tom Henry, deemed Nov. 11 as Project Linus Day in Fort Wayne and recognized the hard work of the northeast Indiana chapter.