Young library patrons help make children's blankets for community members in need

HOLLY SCHOLZ - Sisters Gabi, 8, and Sami, 10, Ramos help tie a no-sew fleece blanket during a Project Linus event at the Crook County Library last Thursday. Children helped make the blankets, which will be given to local children in need through the Family Access Network.

What did 27 local kids do last Thursday at the library while public schools were closed?

They learned about community service and blanket-making techniques as they helped cut and tie two fleece blankets that will be given to Crook County children in need.

"These are going to be donated to Project Linus," said Crook County Library Youth Services Librarian Shun-Sho Fong. "Project Linus is an organization that receives donated blankets of all different kinds — anything from quilts to felted blankets like these — and they give them to kids who are in need. It could be kids who are sick, it could be kids who come from lower-income families, it could be kids who are homeless."

Sisters Sami and Gabi Ramos, ages 10 and 8, did their part in cutting and tying the no-sew fleece blankets, learning not only about being a "blanketeer," but about doing community service.

Fong had heard about Project Linus and thought it was a neat idea.

"One of the things that we really try to implement here is having a broad variety of programs, everything from parties to craft events to service projects, so this was one idea that we had thought would work really well," she said. "I love that these blankets can have such an influence over people's lives and bring such comfort."

National Make a Blanket Day for Project Linus is Feb. 17, and although the library was not able to schedule a program for that exact day, they did want to participate somehow.

Named after the Peanuts cartoon character who always carries around his special blanket, Project Linus formed in 1996 and is headquartered in Belton, Missouri. The founder had read an article about a little girl who had a special "blankie" that comforted her as she was treated for leukemia.

Now, there are Project Linus chapters in all 50 states. Blankets are collected locally and distributed to children in hospitals, shelters, social service agencies or anywhere that a child might be in need of a big hug.

Roxanne Cummings-Basey had been involved with a chapter in Portland before moving to Prineville in 2015.

"With all the political things going on at that time, I just decided I needed to do something, so I started it up," Cummings-Basey said of the Central Oregon Project Linus Chapter.

That was January 2017, and since then, she has collected about 190 blankets from "blanketeers" throughout Central Oregon.

A group of eight Prineville quilters got in touch with Cummings-Basey and meet weekly to sew quilts for local children, ranging from receiving blankets to teen-size quilts. Other clubs and individuals have also donated throughout the year, such as the library.

During the two-hour session last Thursday, kids were responsible for cutting and tying the 4-foot by 6-foot colorful fleece blankets together — one featuring dinosaur skeletons and another with llamas.

"We had out scissors, and we had a little pattern out so they could line up the pattern themselves on the fabric and know exactly how wide they needed to cut and in what areas," Fong explained. "There was some one-on-one help, but it wasn't intensive. We really wanted kids to take some initiative when it came to that, and it was amazing to see how many younger kids enjoyed just the process of cutting and taking such great pride in the process."

The 27 young "blanketeers" each received a bag of candy as a reward for helping.

As the local chapter coordinator, Cummings-Basey distributes the blankets to various agencies that serve Central Oregon children, such as St. Charles hospitals, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Department of Human Services, and Family Access Network.

The two fleece blankets that children made last week at the library will be given to Vanessa Nolen, a Family Access Network advocate for the two Prineville elementary schools. She will give the blankets to two local children.

Although Cummings-Basey would like to see the Central Oregon Project Linus Chapter continue, its future is in doubt due to a lack of donated funds. She is hopeful locals will continue to make blankets for local children.

"The blankets give cuddles and hope and comfort to other children in need, and if they want to help, that's one way to help," she said.

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