Organization prepares blankets for delivery as fast as they are donated
On the third Thursday of each month, at least two dozen people descend on a Sequoia Parkway business in Tigard called A Common Thread to process hundreds of blankets and quilts for Project Linus.
Nearly 400 Project Linus chapters across the U.S., including the Portland/Vancouver chapter, have a mission of donating blankets to provide security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need.
"I love the connection with all these women," said Donna Hoff of Beaverton. "It's really gratifying to help people by providing these blankets. Sometimes if we have a booth at a quilt show, people will come up to us and say thank you for the Project Linus blanket."
Martha Craven of Portland, who has been with the group 1 ½ years, said, "Being a quilter, you give them to everyone in your family, but you run out of people to give them to. This is a good place to volunteer, and you feel productive."
Martha added that local chapter coordinator Jodene Cook of Vancouver "is good about sharing thank you notes from people with us so we know the blankets are appreciated."
At the Jan. 17 get-together, a special guest was Karen Oakley, a volunteer with the Oregon Department of Human Services who works with four Multnomah County offices.
She told the group how much the blankets are appreciated, adding, "This group supplied 60 blankets to one office before Christmas and committed to donating 225 more - that is a lot of blankets! I'm overwhelmed by the generosity of this group - this is the most generous group."
Karen was there to get more blankets for kids picked up from hotline calls when they are in emergency situations.
"The DHS offices are so grateful for presents like this for the kids so they can do the hard work they need to do," she said. "Kids come in cold, tired, hungry and scared, and it's wonderful to be able to give them a blanket that they can keep as they move around."
Even though every person in the group stays busy at the meetings, no blankets or quilts are actually made on the spot, according to Peggy Morton, who explained the process and noted that every piece is called a blanket whether or not it is actually a quilt.
"People make the blankets at home or in clubs or church groups, and there are drop-off sites at fabric stores and different places," she said. "The bags of blankets are picked up and brought here."
At the monthly meetings, a type of assembly line is formed that is spread over several tables around the back room of A Common Thread. Women sitting at the first table inspect the blankets for quality and determine their size - baby, child or teen - before they are taken to a second table where several people sitting at sewing machines sew Project Linus labels on them.
At the next table, volunteers carefully fold each blanket and tie it up with a ribbon and tag, and at the last table, the folded blankets are bagged according to size.
Every few minutes during the Jan. 17 get-together, someone would hold up a beautiful quilt just removed from a bag for everyone to admire, and Martha explained, "As a quilter, you appreciate them. Some are heirloom quality and could be auctioned off."
Barbara McGuire of McMinnville said that as a longtime quilter, "There are only so many quilts your family needs, and then you run into a wall, but you still enjoy doing it. So I enjoy sewing and bringing in quilts - it's kind of an obsession - and it's nice to see the results of other people's creative outlets - it's inspiring."
Everyone is quick to point out that people don't have to know how to sew to be productive in the group - the only people who sew at the meetings are those who sew on the labels. Many of the blankets are just cut out of fleece and fringed, so the only tool needed is a pair of scissors.
Jodene's home is warehouse central - she takes the bags of blankets home and stores them in her garage ready for people or groups to come pick up or she delivers them.
Not to be overlooked in the group of laughing and chatting women is the one man in the group - Lou Pottratz of Tigard. He retired five years ago and has a quilting business called Long Arm Quilting by Lou, and he brings his sewing machine to sew labels on the blankets.
Lou said he started sewing as a child because his mother made all seven of her boys learn to sew. "It's fun," he said.
Another enthusiastic member is Jan Perkins of Beaverton, who has been in the group since it started 12 years ago.
"This is so much fun - I look forward to these Thursdays," she said. "I try to do 100 blankets a year myself for Project Linus."
Linda Carlson of Oregon City said she mostly makes fleece blankets and finishes off the edges with a blanket stitch, which she can do in the car or waiting in doctors' offices.
Shirley Schultz (no relation of Charles Schultz, creator of "Peanuts," she explains) said that at first she came to the meetings sporadically but now never misses a session.
Dottie Russie of the Royal Villas community just south of Tigard noted that anyone can contribute: "Sewing skills are not needed," she said.
In just a little over two hours, the Project Linus group had readied 287 blankets for delivery, filling a long line of bags that stretched from the back room into the retail area of A Common Thread.
"Our record is 410," said Jodene, who calculates that each blanket costs Project Linus about 10 cents for the label and ribbon. "Anything over 250 is pretty extraordinary. Today I did not sew on one label, I did not size one blanket, I did not tie on one ribbon - I just brought chocolate."
The Portland/Vancouver group is getting very close to donating 35,000 blankets, with just a few hundred to go before reaching that amazing milestone.