After reading about Project Linus in the Sun-Gazette, Tracy Haas, marketing coordinator at Albright LIFE, knew the day center's participants could help by making blankets for the organization.
Haas contacted Pat Warren, Project Linus coordinator for the Central Susquehanna Valley chapter, to have her discuss the project in greater detail.
After Warren visited the day center in March, three women eagerly began working on blankets.
The ladies use donated material, thread and yarn to hand-craft blankets for Project Linus, which is a nonprofit organization that distributes handmade blankets to children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need.
The organization's name is derived from the Linus character in Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" comic strip. Linus often was depicted in the strip carrying his blue blanket.
Although Project Linus's first and primary mission is to create comforting blankets for children in need, the organization also seeks to provide a rewarding and fun service opportunity for interested individuals and groups, especially seniors.
Project Linus welcomes blankets of all styles, including quilts, tied comforters, fleece blankets, crocheted or knitted afghans, and receiving blankets in child-friendly colors.
"Project Linus is such a good way for people to contribute to their community," Warren said. "I was told by one homebound 80-year-old lady who crocheted blankets that the Project 'gave her a reason to get up in the morning.' I have had two 90-year-old ladies apologize that they could only crochet baby blankets, but any bigger just got too heavy on their needles. Making blankets for kids is such a meaningful way that seniors can contribute to their community."
Warren said the local chapter has donated more than 10,000 blankets to the community since 2000.
The Central Susquehanna Valley chapter serves Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Columbia, Montour and Lycoming counties with donated blankets going to Williamsport Regional Medical Center and Susquehanna Health; Janet Weis Children's Hospital, Danville; Evangelical Community Hospital, Lewisburg; Shepherd of the Streets; and local Red Cross chapters, among others.
Finished blankets may be dropped off at Aquarius Pool and Patio, 170 Pine St., and FASTSIGNS, 535 E. Third St.
According to Warren, the local chapter has had so much success that another blanket drop-off site was established at Woodlands Bank along West Southern Avenue in South Williamsport.
Susan Berta, activities coordinator at Albright, said the women are seeking donations of new cotton fabric, fleece, batting, yarn and blankets that are started and need to be completed.
The day center at 901 Memorial Ave. also is seeking donations of newer, working sewing machines for the women to use.
Ruth Signor, Audrae Rudy and Carol Houtz, all of Williamsport, are using their skills to knit, crochet and sew blankets while at the day center.
"Some are knitted, some are crocheted, and others have been color-coordinated and laid out so Ruth can start them," Berta said.
Signor said the ladies have a lot of projects going on right now, so it's easy to get distracted.
"I have too many great-grandkids I have to make blankets for," she said with a laugh.
Houtz said the ladies are grateful for the donations and happy to have a challenge, such as when people give her an afghan that hasn't been completed.
"I've finished two blankets like that," she said.
Rudy said other day center participants also volunteer their time to help by cutting out the squares or tracing the squares onto the fabric. The ladies also work together on holiday projects, including small bags they sewed for Christmas that were decorated by other participants.
"I'd like to take some of these home to work on, but I don't have a machine at home," Signor said. "And this machine is an old machine, but a darn good one," she said about the antique Singer machine at the facility.
Berta said the women are looking for donations of youth-oriented fabric so they can create blankets for older children, not just baby blankets.
"We need fabric to back the quilts and batting, too," Berta said.
But Signor said the most important part of giving back is that they all are having fun.
"We're like family," Houtz said. "Before they came here, lots of people didn't bother with anyone else, but here, you have to [interact]."
Houtz said the women all work at different speeds, but they hope to make as many blankets as they can.
"I wonder how I would have survived without working on projects," Houtz said. "I had five kids of my own and two step children and whenever I got worked up or angry, I would stop what I was doing, sit down and knit or crochet for a while to calm down."
Signor agreed. "I had six kids and I made afghans for all my kids and grandkids ... I'm running out of people time."
Signor believes it is important for those with talents to teach the next generation so these skills can be passed down.
"It's a lost art," Haas said. "So many people are used to buying blankets that they miss the love that goes into a hand-crafted project ... that's a gift in itself."
Rudy said that many children don't know about handmade items; when the women were younger, they all created clothing for their families.
"If the economy gets worse, they may have to take it up [sewing]," Rudy said.
Haas recalled that when students from Cochran Elementary School recently visited the day center, they were surprised to learn that the girls didn't wear pants to school, only skirts and dresses.
But the best part, for the women, is having a way to give back.
"We really enjoy giving back to the community," Berta said. "We all have so many blessings in life."
"They pour their love into children they don't even know," Haas said.
Warren said the blankets make a difference in the life of a sick child.
"I just got a thank you message from a young mother whose 3-month-old child was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia and received a blanket. The room was cool because of equipment," Warren said. "When she sat in a chair holding the baby, she was able to cover herself and the baby with the blanket. She said they felt so cozy and loved. A Project Linus blanket is a hug when you need one most."
To contact Warren, email pwcsvpl @windstream.net. To donate materials or sewing machines to Albright LIFE, call 322-5433.