TOWNSHEND -- When volunteers of the local Project Linus chapter get together at their monthly meeting, it is a chance for the women to share their work: blankets and afghans made for children in hospitals, shelters and other places.
"Most of the times it's local," said Project Linus Coordinator for Windham County Christine Cathcart, of where the blankets go. "One of the nurses said it helps the child to calm down and the child gets distracted. They can take it through a CAT scan machine."
The blankets must be handmade and are given anonymously. Sets are also donated to schools as well as to families who may have just experienced a tragedy such as a house fire.
Much of this chapter's collection will go to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and Grace Cottage. But it can also go as far as Bennington, Rutland or Springfield. It all depends on the need.
Starting in 1995, Project Linus was founded by Karen Loucks, who lives in Colorado. She wanted to make blankets for a local children's cancer center. According to Cathcart, Loucks had read an article involving a little girl holding a blanket at the hospital that was asked how she managed with all the tests and procedures.
"She said she holds on to her blanket like Linus in the (Charlie Brown) comic strip. (Loucks) felt touched by this and they all made a blanket for every child," said Cathcart.
Today, there are more than 400 chapters of Project Linus in the United States. The Windham County chapter is the only one of Vermont and it started in 2007.
Some of the regulars at the chapter's monthly meetings include Mimi Stringham, Janet Broad, Elaine Day-Starrett, Madeline Adzima, Ginny Grabowsky and Elizabeth Thompson. Every third Wednesday of the month, they meet at the Olde Farm Bed and Breakfast located on Grafton Road in Townshend, which is owned by Cathcart. There are usually about eight or nine women who show up but there were times where even more gathered.
By meeting once a month, Cathcart said the women learn from each other and they will share patterns.
"A lot of times, you get involved not because of yourself but the children," said Adzima.
Broad told the Reformer that no child gets the same blanket because each one is a unique quilt.
The chapter donates a set of blankets to Kurn Hattin School graduates every year. It had to come up with 20 blankets this year.
In special circumstances, blankets are sent to other states. A set went to Connecticut following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting incident. The Project Linus headquarters will send out a special request in those cases.
Last year, the Windham County chapter collected 800 to 860 in total. This year, approximately 80 blankets are being collected each month.
"We seem to have a lot right now," said Cathcart. "But it's been a long winter. People are saying, ‘Don't expect this to go on. We have to do our gardening.' It always seems we have enough."
A recent blanket that the group received came from students in Dummerston School that attend the after school program. Another one came from a confirmation class out of Manchester. Other donated blankets come from kids who are participating in community service while the quilting group known as "The Sew Whats," of Newfane, regularly contribute to the collection.
The chapter is always looking for materials or donations for materials. It can use yarn and fabric that would otherwise go unused. Cathcart can be reached at 802-365-4704.
Certain materials, such as velvet, cannot be used for Project Linus. When the group receives that type of material, it will make blankets for animal shelters.
"Animals have to be secure," said Stringham.
Several of the volunteers told the Reformer they had household pets that accompanied them while making their blankets.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.