Friday, September 18, 2009

Old memories creating new memories

The weather was gorgeous - not too hot - not too cold. While the sun was shining outside, the blanketeers inside were hard at work. The blue, cloudless sky and the warm balmy breezes certainly didn't give any indication as to what had just happened to our country. On 9-11-2001, we all remember that the USA was attacked in a way which was somehow very confusing and very foreign to us. Nothing like this had ever happened before and we certainly didn't ever expect it. We were pierced to our cores and each of us was scrambling to somehow do somehow be of service to those in the immediate area of the attack. Our Project Linus chapter was almost 2 years old and we had a core group of volunteers numbering less than 100. Of course, when tragedy strikes, Project Linus volunteers immediately start thinking "blankets". We decided to hold a special Make A Blanket Day and were offered the gymnasium at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to hold our event. In less than a week, the newspapers had been notified, the TV station held a "pre-event" interview and advertised our event for us and over 500 volunteers attended. Local businesses paid for postage to ship the blankets to NYC and the Pentagon, school children had "fleece drives", blanketeers came with their friends and family, some donated money, some donated materials, some donated their time and we worked together, side by side, to try to bring some sense of comfort to those tragically affected. How? By doing what we do best - giving them a gift of a handmade blanket. We were all focused and we made hundreds and hundreds of blankets. It was an amazing day. We had a purpose and our purpose was accomplished.

As the sun came out on Thursday, September 17th, 2009, I couldn't help but be reminded of that MABD event in 2001. We have continued to host this Community Day of Service each fall ever since and this was our 9th Fall Make a Blanket Day. This year, we also had a focus - we made weighted blankets for children with autism. I've discussed autism and the weighted blankets on our blog previously, so I won't get into the details. What I will share with you is what I observed.
  • Almost half of our 120 volunteers were newcomers to Make a Blanket Day. What a PLEASURE it was to meet each new blanketeer! We hope you'll come back!
  • Many of our preconceived notions about what autism is and how it manifests itself in those affected were dispelled by Ashley Whittington - a representative from "The Autism Place" who gave us some background information on the children we were preparing to serve. What a wonderful and enlightening presentation. It gave each of us the boost of energy we needed to spend the day making weighted blankets.
  • Each year, Carol and Jane from National HQ always attend - bringing food, organizing the lunch buffet, cleaning up and attaching the charms everyone earned in the previous 6 months to our bracelets. This year Carol has been experiencing some set-backs following her shoulder surgery and was unable to attend. We missed her and so many of you asked me to send her your good wishes. Thank you!
  • Being the simply amazing person she's not at all surprising that Jane managed to organize a meal for 120 people - single handedly. With help from the church Relief Society and our attendees - we all had an absolutely delicious meal and we are so grateful for Jane. She's always behind the scenes - and we didn't even have a chance to give her a round of applause - so this is as good of a time as any. Applause! Applause! Applause!
  • Thank you to Gayla Clawson and Elizabeth Gauthier for taking over the "charm table" and updating your jewelry. So many of you wear your beautiful Project Linus charm bracelets and necklaces to our events and it is so heartwarming to actually be able to equate your service with all of the charms you have earned! You are all amazing!
  • What would we do without such a great work area! At no cost to us, we are able to use the entire church building for our event and although there are occasions where the quarters are tight, we have such a wonderful time together - we don't even notice! When the Young Men youth group dedicates their Wednesday evening to help us set up, it warms our hearts and souls to see them offering service to us! Thank you!
  • When we decided to make the weighted blankets, Cheryl created the perfect pattern for us. It's simple - goes together quickly - and makes an adorable blanket! To see each of you attempting a new pattern and working so hard to make a beautiful blanket for a very special child is more than heartwarming. Thank you!
  • Sheets, sheets and more sheets were donated to fill the weighted blankets. Our local hospitals (DMH and St. Mary's) were so generous - giving us hundreds of sheets for our event. We saw boxes that our volunteers displayed at their churches, their work places and their schools - filled with sheets for us to use. Many of our blanketeers brought sheets they collected or purchased and other members of the community stopped by with sheets they wanted to donate. Each blanket took 12-14 sheets. When you're talking about 150 blankets - that's a LOT of laundry! In addition, if you talk to any of the ladies today who worked on the stage sorting and preparing sheets under the direction of Caroline Embleton - I know they will tell you that they never worked so hard. Imagine how you feel after you wash your bed sheets and then fold them. They folded HUNDREDS of sheets. I hope their arms are "usable" today! I'm sure they developed some muscles after yesterday's event.
  • Thank you to each of you who helped with set-up and clean-up. We couldn't do it without you. Thank you to your husbands for helping as well. Isn't it amazingly wonderful to have a spouse who is such a support! Whenever we have a Project Linus event, my wonderful husband faithfully dedicates every minute of time to help make sure everything runs smoothly. Even when the stress tends to get the best of me, his words of encouragement and love keep me keepin' on! Thank you dear!
  • Thank you to the Golden K's and the LDS missionaries for their continued support of our events. Each year they not only help set up and take down, but they carry in our heavy supplies so that we don't have to! THANK YOU!!!
  • I was so touched by stories shared by many of our attendees who have friends or family with autistic children. With the tremendous cost of purchasing a weighted blanket keeping many from reaping their benefits, we hope that our blankets will give them some comfort. Thank you to each of you who donated fabric to make a blanket - and to each of you who donated your precious time to come and help!
  • Did you read the article in the Herald and Review newspaper? What would we do without the support of reporter Theresa Churchill? The pre-blanket day news posting brought several inquiries this year. The beautiful article written by Theresa in today's paper was such a pleasure to wake up to! There is even a beautiful picture of a new blanketeer, Elizabeth Michael. Here's the link if you'd like to take a look: Thank you so much Theresa!

To those who were unable to attend - we missed you and hope to see you in February at the Hickory Point Mall in Forsyth (details TBA).

Thank you again to each of you for supporting Cheryl and me. We will be continuing to make weighted blankets on occasion - as they are needed. We hope to make some at our February 2010 event as well.

Our next event is our Appreciation Breakfast on December 3rd. No work - just food and inspiration as we welcome in the holiday season and thank each of you for your service to our Project Linus chapter! :-)

Happy Blanketmaking!