Sending heartfelt wishes -- Gazette.Net


Getting a valentine can warm your heart, but the valentines being exchanged at Northwest High School in Germantown are also helping keep someone in need warm.

Students here not only are playing Cupid, they also are playing part in a national program called Warm Up America to get blankets to nonprofit organizations such as the American Red Cross and hospice care programs.

About 20 high-schoolers are busy crocheting little stuffed red hearts that their classmates buy for $2 each. The crocheters then deliver the hearts with personal messages during school on Valentine’s Day. The fundraiser will help the group of crocheters buy more yarn used in making the blankets.

NWHS senior Kim Fuentes, the club president, started the club four years ago and said she hopes to sell 100 crocheted hearts this month.

“I love that I learned something new by starting this club and that I can make something that brings a smile to people’s faces,” she said.

The NWHS club has made seven blankets. In December, the club donated three blankets to the Stepping Stone Shelter in Rockville.

“When we gave them three blankets we had been making since my freshman year, that was very sentimental,” Fuentes said.

While crocheting an afghan can be a tedious task, Warm Up America breaks it down into 49 smaller squares. Volunteers crochet individual squares that are then sent to the organization. Warm Up America has other volunteers who attach all the patches together to create the blanket. Some participants, however, create the entire blanket themselves without sending the squares to WUA.

That’s what NWHS club members do, making the blanket from the first hook to the final stitch. Students here earn 30 minutes in Student Service Learning credits for each patch they create, said Anne Marcinko, social studies teacher and club sponsor for the school.

“I selected WUA as the club I wanted to sponsor because I like to knit and crochet as a hobby, anyway, but I also wanted students to focus on helping other and earn service hours. I stumbled upon the Warm Up America website, and it was just what I was looking for,” Marcinko said.

The Warm Up America program started in 1991 by Evie Rosen, a yarn-shop owner from Wisconsin who started making afghans for her local shelter. Inundated by the need, she asked for help from her fellow knitters to make one patch of a blanket at a time. As word spread, Rosen began receiving so many patches for blankets, she couldn’t keep up assembling them. She solicited help from the Craft Yarn Council, the organization that now runs Warm Up America.

Often, volunteers make the entire blanket themselves without sending patches to the council, said Mary Colucci, executive director of the Warm up America. Colucci estimates the organization’s volunteers have donated 250,000 blankets to individuals and nonprofits nationwide.

“We have a database with a list of agencies that request blankets, and it is a range of organizations including battered women’s shelters, hospice, the Red Cross. The premise of the program is neighbors helping neighbors,” Colucci said.

Recently many of WUA’s blankets were donated to nonprofit organizations in West Virginia serving residents affected by the snow dumped in the region by Superstorm Sandy, Colucci said.

“It is a great project particularly for schools because they work together and have to coordinate it and help each other knit or crochet,” Colucci said.