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'Blanketeers' donate over 500 blankets

The Charles County Chapter of Project Linus recently collected and sewed over 500 blankets in one day, to be given to local nonprofit organizations in Southern Maryland and Prince George’s County, as part of the national organization’s Make a Blanket Day.

“No words to say except WOW!” volunteer coordinator Karen Huff said in an email this week. “Our 46 Make A Blanket Day Blanketeers outdid themselves this year. We collected/made and completed 561 blankets this year.”

Huff said this was a record number of blankets for the Charles County chapter.

Project Linus is a national nonprofit organization based in Belton, Mo., with chapters all over the country. It is made up of volunteers who sew blankets to be given to children in need, according to its website.

The blankets are given out to hospitals that serve children, social services agencies and military, including Children’s National Hospital and Howard University Hospital-Pediatrics in Washington, D.C., MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital in Clinton, the Backpacks of Love program, Center for Children, Charles County Social Services, Charles County Children’s Aid Society, King George County (Va.) Social Services, LifeStyles of Maryland’s “Safe Nights” program, the Maryland Diaper Bank, the Tri-County Youth Services Bureau and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors summer camp program for children.

Huff noted that this year, the group is donating blankets to organizations in surrounding jurisdictions as well.

“What’s nice is, because there is no chapter in Prince George’s County, we get a lot of people [volunteering] from southern Prince George’s as well as other places,” Huff said. “We have pretty good representation, which is why we try to donate to those other organizations.”

Throughout the year, volunteer blanket makers — referred to as “blanketeers” — have met at the Richard Clark Senior Center in Charles County to work on making blankets, but the big push, with almost four dozen volunteers, took place Feb. 21.

Blankets are also donated or collected from people who make them in their homes throughout the year.

“It gives people a place, a safe place, to participate and make friends and come together as a community, but we also feel that we’re helping the children of this region, so it’s kind of a two-fold mission” Huff said.

Mary Hancock founded the Charles County branch in 2002 after finding out about the program when her granddaughter was hospitalized. Her granddaughter was given a blanket made by Project Linus, and so she decided to start a chapter in Charles County. The first Make a Blanket Day was held in Charles County in 2004.

“I’m really pleased that Karen [Huff] has done such a great job growing [the chapter]; she’s gotten some younger members … and I’m really pleased with how it’s grown,” Hancock said.

Betty Young of Oxon Hill said this was her fourth Make a Blanket Day.

“It’s wonderful; you get to learn different skills, you get to do things that you don’t get to do when you’re working, everybody’s nice … it’s a very special day,” Young said. “I really enjoy it. I look forward to it every year. I tell my boss every year when I find out when it is, that I won’t be in that day.”

Young invited several relatives and friends, and some of them brought their friends.

“I have a passion for needle art,” said Cathy Harkless of Virginia. “It’s my passion, and I get to come and hang out. It’s nice, there’s so much yarn and thread.”

“I just enjoy the opportunity to give back,” said Lynette Newby of Fort Washington. “I can’t think of a better way to spend a day off from work.”

Another blanketeer, Sarah Carlson, said she enjoys giving back to the community. She said she found out about the event from her quilting class at the senior center.

“It benefits so many people, the hospitals, the children in our community,” Carlson said. “When tragic things happen, a blanket can really matter. I’ve done this for so many years.”

Gloria Durnford now lives in King George County, Va., but has been coming to Make a Blanket Day since 2006, when she lived in Accokeek.

“I keep coming back; all my friends are here. I’ve only missed one Make a Blanket Day because of my surgery,” Durnford said. “It’s for the kids, that’s why I do it.”

Friends are the reason Caroline Shamblen said she keeps coming back as well. A former La Plata resident, Shamblen has been taking part since the beginning, but she moved to Martinsburg, W.Va., about eight years ago. She’s been back two or three times since, she said.

“It’s in your blood. I’m a fabric person. I love to work with fabric. I love to work with scraps of fabric — that’s why I’m a quilter. It’s an addiction. And because it’s for children, and children need the quilts,” Shamblen said.

Shamblen said the group has received thank you letters and received thanks from past blanket recipients.

“It really touches your heart, and that keeps us sewing,” Shamblen said.

Twitter: @JamieACIndyNews

Twitter: @JamieACIndyNews

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