Security blankets with heart

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They call themselves blanketeers.

No, they don’t wrap themselves in blankets, although like the Peanuts cartoon character Linus, they cling onto blankets. It’s not a security thing. Not for them.

Rather, blanketeers understand how important a personal blanket can be to a child who is ill, in a shelter or pulled from a dangerous situation by a policemen or fireman.

For the past 21 years Project Linus, a non-profit organization, has been providing blankets to Rhode Island hospitals, shelters, social service agencies as well as first responders.

On Saturday, blanketeers from across the state joined at Blaine’s Sewing Center on Route 5 to drop off the blankets they had created in the last six months and make a few more blankets. They were joined by students from Johnson & Wales University and Kohl’s employees seeking to complete community service hours and, as it turned out, make blankets for the first time.

It’s that personal touch – not a store-bought manufactured blanket – that makes the difference, says Martha Sholes, who is the state coordinator for Project Linus.

“These are gifts of love,” she said. “This is something from the heart.”

The blankets the J&W students and Kohl’s employees made required a lot of measuring, cutting of fleece and tying knots. They were completed with a Linus label that was attached with a sewing machine. Many of the blankets are extensive labors of love requiring skill, patience and a lot of time.

That’s something that Sholes and those who have been doing this for years recognize and celebrate.

Sholes couldn’t help but express her admiration as Michaela Mueller reached into a plastic bag and pulled out crochet blanket she displayed between outstretched arms. Randy Powers elicited similar exclamations of praise as he displayed a quilt of an elephant. He said the work comprised 500 pieces and took him 50 hours to make.

Sholes said Project Linus meets twice a year at Blaine’s, enabling individual and groups to come together as well as bring along the blankets made since their last meeting. Throughout the year, Sholes also makes collections from 12 drop-off locations throughout the state. She said residents from a number of assisted living facilities have taken on making blankets.

“They are being productive and a part of the community,” she said.

Project Linus provides material for the blankets including yarn, cotton fabric, batting, fleece and knitting and crochet needles. Funding comes through donations and grants.

Included in those organizations receiving blankets are Bradley Hospital, Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Newport Hospital, Women & Infants’ Hospital, the Department of Children Youth & Families, Ronald McDonald House, Friends Way, Crossroads RI and Children of Our Fallen Heroes.

Dianne Bonin and Rebecca Schulte are among the originals of the Rhode Island chapter. Schulte, who was sewing Linus labels onto completed blankets Saturday, recalled mentioning the program to her book club 21 years ago. The club put down their books and turned to sewing. Bonin continues to make blankets.

“It beats house work,” she said.

Project Linus was started in 1995 by Karen Loucks, who learned of a young girl undergoing chemotherapy and how her security blanket helped her. Loucks was inspired to provide security blankets to Denver’s Rocky Mountain Children’s Center, thus starting Project Linus. The project now has more than 400 chapters in all 50 states.

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