Volunteers create blankets for children in needVolunteers gathered in the community room at Meadowlawn Plaza in Mitchell and made about 30 blankets for Project Linus.
By: Chris Mueller, The Daily Republic
Sometimes, all it takes is a blanket to make a difference. On Saturday, a group of nearly 20 volunteers gathered in the community room at Meadowlawn Plaza in Mitchell and made about 30 blankets for Project Linus’ National Make a Blanket Day. “It’s a big push to get a lot of blankets done,” said Linda Pien, a coordinator for the Eastern South Dakota chapter of Project Linus. Project Linus is a national organization started in mid-1990s that provides homemade blankets to ill or traumatized children.
The Eastern South Dakota chapter of the organization, which is based in Sioux Falls, was started almost 15 years ago. In that time, the chapter’s volunteers, who currently total close to 900, have produced more than 27,000 blankets for children.
Joanne Flack began making blankets for Project Linus in Mitchell about six years ago.
Flack, of Mitchell, and her band of local “blanketeers” — a word used to describe a volunteer who makes blankets for Project Linus — gather every Monday at Meadowlawn Plaza’s community room to make blankets, in addition to National Make a Blanket Day.
“We have a lot of dedication around here,” Flack said. The group churns out about 325 blankets every year, she added.
“It makes a huge difference,” Pien said of the Mitchell group’s contribution.
Blankets were flying down the assembly line during Saturday’s event, with experienced blanketeers and newcomers alike, all sewing, stitching, snipping and trimming from 9 a.m. until late in the afternoon.
A similar event held Friday in Sioux Falls produced 50 blankets, Pien said.
“People just can’t believe a total stranger would do something like this,” said Diane Neuroth, of Sioux Falls, another coordinator for the Eastern South Dakota chapter of Project Linus.
Blanket recipients can range in age anywhere from newborn babies to 18-year-olds. Blankets are also given to children who have at least one parent deployed in the military. All the supplies are donated, Flack said, and in some cases the volunteers buy fabric and other necessities themselves, or with donated money. “It’s phenomenal the way people pitch in and help,” Pien said. The blankets made Saturday at Meadowlawn Plaza will soon be counted, packed and then delivered to children at Avera Queen of Peace Hospital in Mitchell, Flack said. Delivering the blankets is, without a doubt, the “best part,” she added. “Everybody gets the biggest smile on their face,” she said. Each Project Linus blanket is specially tagged so recipients know exactly where their blanket came from and who made it.
“The thank yous are just amazing that the kids send out,” Neuhoth said.
Anyone who wants to get involved in Project Linus can find more information at projectlinus.org, Neuhoth said.
“You’ll see a picture of a newborn wrapped in a blanket you made and it makes it all worth it,” Pien said.
Nothing donated to the group, whether supplies or money, ever goes to waste, Flack said.
“We have to be good stewards,” Flack said. “People give to us expecting great things.”