Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Every blanket created through Project Linus is like a bear hug for a child in crisis.
“Sometimes a child comes to us without anything, and like it was for (“Peanuts” cartoon character) Linus, the blankets are a kind of security for them,” said Jason Gillentine, investigations supervisor of the local Texas Department of Family and Protective Services office. “It's something of their own, something they can take with them.”
The endeavor was inspired by a 1995 magazine article about a three-year-old cancer patient whose special “blankie” comforted her during rounds of chemotherapy. After reading about the little girl, Karen Loucks began providing homemade security blankets to Denver's Rocky Mountain Children's Cancer Center, launching the beginnings of Project Linus.
In Cherokee County, blankets have been distributed both Mother Frances Hospital and ETMC in Jacksonville, as well as the protective services office and the Crisis Center of Anderson & Cherokee County, said Eileen Wood, an assistant coordinator for the Henderson/Smith Counties chapter.
“In the last year or two, we decided to branch out a little bit because all these people heard about us and now Cherokee and Anderson (Counties) are included in our chapter,” she said.
“When we find out someone is in need, we pull the blankets out and take them to them,” Wood added.
“Some police departments give out teddy bears, but a blanket can wrap a child and make him feel secure,” she said.
Mary Brown, a member of Jacksonville's First United Methodist Church, is a local volunteer in the effort.
“This is the third year I've done (Project Linus) – I read about it and called to get some information, and at the time they needed someone who could bring blankets (from the distribution site) to the Jacksonville hospitals, to CPS, and now, recently, to the Crisis Center,” she said. “I was looking for something to do on my personal time.”
Others in her church felt the same and grew interested when they learned about Project Linus, so they invited someone from the local chapter to discuss the project.
And one by one, they've been helping give children a sense of security in the form of a blanket, no two which are the same.
“Oh, it's a variety of blankets,” Brown said. “There probably are fewer of what we would call a true pieced quilt – the one that (fellow church member Diana Woyt) makes is tied flannel. The fleece blankets are also very easy to make. We have one lady who will crochet them – she wants to do small baby blankets, sometimes for preemies, and another lady will knit blankets.”
Finished items are gathered up and taken to a drop off point in Tyler, and from there, they travel to Henderson County, where chapter coordinator Harla Greenwood and her husband have dedicated one of their rental properties for storage.
“We call it 'Linus's House,” Wood said.
Copies of a poem by Pam Braden – which assures recipients “you can feel the love I tucked inside” while the blanket was being created – are tagged to the material, “and we put little tags with Linus on there,” as well as tags describing who made the blankets, she said.
Blankets are sorted by size – baby, toddler, child, pre-teen and teen – and bundled for delivery, ready to go at a moment's notice whenever a call comes in.
The chapter, Wood said, delivers approximately 250-300 blankets a month.
“We've been blessed (with donations), and now we can deliver,” she said.
As he recently went through several stacks of Project Linus blankets that are kept in The Rainbow Room at the local CPS office, Gill-entine thanked the project coordinators for providing a unique tool for the work they do.
“We really appreciate them – not all of our offices have” access to the blankets, but the local Project Linus chapter ensures “that every child we serve will have one,” he said. “The little kids eat them up – it's new, it's fresh and they hang on to it.”
To learn more about Project Linus, visit the website www.projectli-nus.org, which also has information about local chapters.
Or contact Eileen Wood, 903-292-1586, or Harla Greenwood, 903-425-6528, who coordinate the Henderson-Smith Counties chapter.