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Blanketing Kitsap with kindness

Project Linus volunteers spread love one stitch at a time.

Unless you’re highly involved in the volunteer community in Kitsap County, or you happen to be a sewing enthusiast, you’re probably not familiar with the term, “blanketeer.”

But those who are keen on quilting will tell you a blanketeer is anyone who donates time and energy to the efforts of Project Linus. And for millions of children around the world, blanketeers are more than that.

They’re heroes.

Project Linus was founded in the last days of 1995 by Karen Loucks, a Denver woman who had read an article in Parade magazine featuring a little girl who attested to the comfort her security blanket had brought her throughout her recent chemotherapy treatments.

Almost immediately after reading the article, Loucks began sewing and sending homemade blankets to the Rocky Mountain Children’s Cancer Center in Denver.

And it didn’t take long for her efforts to expand.

Today there are more than 400 Project Linus chapters in the United States, including the Kitsap County chapter based in Port Orchard.

Blanketeers from all over the region donate their skills and free time each week to produce little pieces of comfort for children who have been victims of fire, disease, natural disasters and other tragedies.

“I have an e-mail list of about 100 people” who are local volunteers for Project Linus, said Kitsap County Chapter Coordinator Darlene Slagle. “A whole part of my garage is filled with donations.”

Those donations contributed to the more than 300 blankets the Kitsap chapter handed out in the month of June alone.

Depending on the month, and the demand for blankets from her contacts at hospitals, nonprofit organizations, funeral homes, and police and fire departments, Slagle says the number of blankets produced each month can vary from “a handful” to “quite a few.”

But whether she needs just a few blankets or a plethora, Slagle says she has been able to consistently count on assistance from the most enthusiastic blanketeers in her bunch.

“I have a core group of people that actually come here to my house and help me with blankets,” Slagle said. “There’s about maybe 10, tops, that actually will come here and help me. It’s a lot of work.”

Other than the donations of hours and nimble fingers, Project Linus accepts monetary and material gifts in order to further its mission. Twice a year, Pacific Fabrics and Crafts in Bremerton gives customers a discount if they bring in materials to donate to Project Linus.

The store also hosts sewing parties at those times, during which blanketeers can spend the day quilting together.

Slagle and her fellow blanketeers do not track their blankets beyond production, so there is no contact between quilters and recipients.

Nevertheless, volunteers can find satisfaction in knowing that they are making a big difference for little ones in need.

To get involved with Project Linus, or to make a donation, you can visit www.projectlinus.org on the Web, or contact Darlene Slagle via e-mail at snaglet@att.net, or by phone at (360) 876-1307.

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