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home : news : news Tuesday, May 24, 2016

2/6/2013 Email this articlePrint this article 
Linus would be proud. The popular Peanuts cartoon character always pictured with his blankie, would delight in all the blankets members of Project Linus have made to comfort others. Karen Brix (left) and Cathy Peterson are surrounded by materials to make many more comforters. Photo by Sarah Beuthien
Comforting blankies are made with love and compassion

By Sarah Beuthien

On a bitter, cold January day, there is plenty of warmth at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Grand Mound, where volunteers gather to make warm memories and bring comfort to children through the Project Linus organization.

Project Linus began in 1995, when Parade magazine featured an article about a little girl going through treatment for leukemia. After reading the article, Karen Loucks decided to make homemade blankets for children at Denver's Rocky Mountain Hospital.

Local coordinator Karen Brix knows the importance of a blanket for a child. Brix and her husband, Kent, have four children, all of them adopted at a young age. Their daughters, who are sisters, arrived with "blankies."

"Being a quilter, when the girls came with blankies, it touched me." It was a few years later when Brix and a group in church started making blankets for a children's counseling center. While researching the Internet for patterns, Brix came across Project Linus.

After reading the mission statement (To provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need through the gifts of new handmade blankets and afghans) and seeing it was all volunteer based, she knew she wanted to be involved.

Brix searched for the local chapter and found there wasn't one, and after some thought, she applied to start a new chapter.

Brix was granted a chapter in March 2004 that now covers Clinton, Scott and Jackson counties. Coming up on nine years, Brix and her volunteer "blanketeers" have handed out 8,700 blankets thus far, including 1,504 last year alone.

Blankets are taken to hospitals, shelters, funeral homes or anywhere the volunteers see a need. About 99 percent of the blankets remain local, however, when the need arises for a large number of blankets, such as hurricanes, tornadoes or large catastrophes, the local chapter rises to the occasion and ships blankets where needed.

In recent years, they have sent blankets for Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and to Joplin, Mo., after the deadly tornadoes.

Occasionally, the blanketeers receive a thank-you note from someone who has been comforted by one of their blankies.

"I just wanted to thank you for the adorable quilt my 16-month-old daughter received while in the ER last night at Genesis East," one grateful mom wrote. "It is much appreciated - as my sweet baby girl loves to snuggle with a good blankie. What a wonderful service you are doing."

Brix's chapter holds workdays once a month in Clinton and Scott counties, meeting at Expressions in Threads quilt shop in LeClaire and at St. Paul's in Grand Mound. The church is so fond of the work being done, a room is designated for storing material.

Workdays serve many purposes, Brix is quick to point out. The group can be therapeutic, discussing local events and getting up to date on recent activities and happenings while sharing patterns, ideas and even turning out a few blankets. Most of the sewing of the blankets is done on volunteer blanketeers' own time. They can work at their own pace and skill level.

Some blanketeers prefer to do only the tops of the quilts while others only crochet the edges of fleece, but all play an important role in turning out a one-of-a kind, handmade product for a child in need.

Volunteer blanketeers are the most important aspect of the process and always are needed; several hundred blanket tops are waiting to be finished, as are stacks of material to start from the beginning.

If hands-on doesn't appeal to a person, she or he also can help by donating fabric or yarn or making a monetary donation.

Brix also applies for grants and relies on donations to keep the sewing machines and busy hands working.

Future workdays will be held Feb. 16, March 16, April 6, May 18 and June 15 in LeClaire, beginning at 11:30 a.m.

Grand Mound will meet Feb. 17, March 17, April 7, May 19 and June 16, beginning at 1 p.m.

Occasionally workdays also are held at Heartland Cottons quilt shop in DeWitt.

For more information, readers may contact Brix at 563-320-4466 or visit the Project Linus website at www.project linus.com.

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