Group gives hundreds to staff and kids at Crestline Elementary

by: BARBARA SHERMAN - THE GOOD WORK NEVER STOPS - Project Linus Portland/Vancouver chapter coordinator Jodene Cook (left) holds up a just-opened blanket for the group to admire at its Jan. 17 regular work session, while Royal Villas resident Dottie Buss points toward it.The February issue of the Regal Courier included a story about the Portland/Vancouver chapter of Project Linus, a nationwide organization that provides quilts and blankets to children in crisis and need.

The local chapter coordinator, Jodene Cook, shared the following story with group members about how the blankets helped out students at Crestline Elementary in Vancouver who were traumatized when their school burned to the ground Feb. 3.

Cook emailed the group Feb. 4 that the address of a church where school counselors were stationed to help students was printed in the local paper.

"I decided just to drive there and talk to someone personally," Cook wrote. "When I told them that I could be back with 100 blankets in 20 minutes, they were overwhelmed! I called (my husband) Walter, and by the time I got home he had the blankets ready to go. The response to the blankets was immediate! Faces on the children and the school personnel lit up.

"One of the school counselors asked if she could give one to a child that was just leaving. I looked up and saw a very sad child heading out the door. The counselor brought him back and within a few minutes had picked out the 'perfect' blanket for him.

"He left with it wrapped around shoulders with a big smile. I overheard other school personnel say how incredible this is and what a difference it will make with these children who have suffered the loss of their school."

Cook added, "There are close to 500 students from grades K-5 who have lost their classrooms. I will be in contact with the SMART (School Mobilization Assistance Response Teams) to see if they need more blankets, and if they do, how we can provide them. As a former teacher, I can't begin to describe the loss that the teachers are feeling. Years and years of teaching files, materials - many bought with their own money - it is all gone."

Following a hastily organized meeting to assemble more blankets for Crestline Elementary, Cook sent this email to the volunteers: "Thank you to the nine wonderful people who were able to come to our house today to work on the 448 blankets that needed to be prepared for Crestline School. We had huge piles of miscellaneous blankets in every nook and cranny, and every one of them got a label if needed, got sized and bagged by grade level, and prepared for delivery. Wow! We're ready to go.

"We know that the teachers haven't had the time to decorate their rooms, and furniture is in short supply right now. But we saw how much our blankets meant to the kids and the teachers, too."

A woman named Barbara later wrote an email to Cook, with some excerpts reprinted below:

"I had the rare privilege this morning of accompanying Jodene and Walter to the Columbia Valley School to give blankets to second-graders from Crestline. As we entered the school, we first encountered two male teachers, one of music and the other of PE, and they were each invited to select a quilt from the 'staff' selection. They were visibly pleased and grateful to be included...

"It was thrilling to see the pure joy on the faces of the students as they each chose a special blanket. Another thing that impressed me was that in each class, at least one or two selected a blanket they thought a younger sibling or a parent would like, intending to share with their family members. The sight of the children with their blankets wrapped around their shoulders was priceless! I'm so grateful I was able to be a part of this presentation.

"The teachers were very moved and overwhelmed by the generosity of Project Linus in providing quilts for each of these traumatized children. The last teacher mentioned to me that the students are still showing distinct signs of stress and trauma as a result of being moved to a new school. We all know that a 'blanket hug' can go a long way toward calming these children, and we're so grateful to be able to provide that for them."

The concept of Project Linus is quite simple: Individuals in addition to people in clubs and church groups make blankets and quilts and drop them off at designated sites such as fabric stores. Project Linus volunteers pick them up, and the Portland/Vancouver group meets a couple times a month to size them, sew on Project Linus labels, fold them neatly and tie them up in a ribbon with a gift tag before they are bagged according to size.

Then they are distributed to hospitals, Oregon Department of Human Services and other places where there are children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need and appreciate the security, warmth and comfort of having their own blanket.

The Portland/Vancouver chapter's members all appreciate the hard word done by Jodene as well as Walter.

"Their caring, giving character inspires the rest of us to work together as such a productive team," said Royal Villas resident Dottie Buss. "Their leadership makes the work a pleasure. We would not be the same chapter without them."

The Portland/Vancouver group started 12 years ago and is nearing the 35,000-blanket mark; members consider it a good day if they process more than 250 blankets at one session. In fact, the chapter will celebrate donating 35,000 blankets at its Portland-area meeting in March and its Vancouver-area meeting in April complete with cake.

For more information on the organization or how to help or join, visit the local website at www.projectlinusoregon or contact Cook at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 360-993-1944.

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