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For more information about the North Bay chapter of Project Linus, click here or visit nbprojectlinus.weebly.com.

Windsor Middle School student Miel Schaefer kicked off 2018 with a quiet act of kindness. Crafty and considerate, the sixth-grader made a pretty fringed blanket for Project Linus, a nationwide charity that distributes new, handmade blankets to children in need.

Miel won’t know who receives the pastel fleece blanket with cat designs on one side and polka dots on the other. She only knows that by stopping by Windsor Regional Library for an hour or so, she’s made a difference for a baby, child or teen going through a tough time.

The Windsor library is among several Sonoma County Library branches that hosted workshops for teens and pre-teens to make no-sew blankets for the North Bay chapter of Project Linus. By mid-January, 65 blankets will be ready for distribution to infants and kids up to 18 who are seriously ill or going through a traumatic experience.

“It makes a world of difference to them,” said Jenny Giacomini of Petaluma, the North Bay Project Linus coordinator since 2003. “Nothing says security more than a blanket. They can wrap themselves with it or use it as a cape. It’s not necessarily to lie on.”

Since its start nearly 15 years ago, the North Bay chapter has distributed some 14,000 handmade quilts, afghans and fleece blankets to fire and police departments, hospitals, health centers, social services programs and other agencies providing assistance to children. Several schools in Santa Rosa received 250 blankets for students who lost homes during the North Bay firestorms.

The blankets add to the more than 6.6 million distributed across the country since Project Linus was founded in 1995. According to the Project Linus website, a story chronicling a 3-year-old leukemia recipient of a special “blankie” inspired the first Linus Project blankets. Peanuts creator Charles Schulz approved of his character being used to provide security blankets for needy kids, and each Project Linus blanket has a fabric tag with the Linus likeness.

Making a no-sew blanket is no big deal, said 11-year-old Miel, a Girl Scout Cadette with Troop 11301.

“You just tie it in a knot. It’s that easy,” she said, her fingers looping top and bottom strips of fabric into knots, creating a fringe along the sides.

Miel got a quick lesson from Lisa Sigler, a library associate at the Windsor branch. Sigler led dozens of kids through similar workshops during the summer, when sessions were held as part of the county library’s “Build a Better World” campaign for its Summer Reading Program.

“It’s like tying off a balloon,” said Sigler, working on a blanket with Miel’s mother, Elsa Vera.

Rachel Icaza, a teen services librarian who planned the blanket-making program, said teens and pre-teens enjoyed making blankets while making a difference for others.

“They wanted to be a part of it for sure, and not just to do a craft,” Icaza said.

Giacomini said the blanket donations come at a time when inventory is low after the firestorms. The North Bay chapter has about 60 members, all volunteers who donate their time, talents and materials.

“Some make five (blankets) a month, others five a year.”

Most are made at home: no-sew fleece blankets easily crafted from kits, or cut from yardage, knitted or crocheted afghans, and quilts.

Blankets typically are distributed in the region where they’re made, except when there’s a disaster and a call for help such as when some blankets from the North Bay chapter were sent to aid Hurricane Harvey victims. Others were delivered to Klamath Falls, Oregon, during last summer’s wildfire; the favor was returned when the Klamath Falls chapter sent blankets for children affected by the North Bay fires.

Local volunteers (called “blanketeers”) meet monthly at a Rohnert Park crafts and fabrics store to deliver blankets, catch up with one another, sew Project Linus labels on blankets and conduct a “show and tell” of sorts, Giacomini said.

Although most volunteers are adults, the local chapter does occasionally receive blankets made by children or teens. Those donated through the library program will help replenish the supply of blankets distributed during the firestorms and help provide warmth and security to those battling illness or struggling through trauma.

Miel, no stranger to volunteerism, is happy her handiwork will help another child. She’s already earned a national President’s Volunteer Service Award for her many charitable hours and a Girl Scout Bronze Award for making care kits for children visiting or admitted to the emergency room at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

Contact Towns Correspondent Dianne Reber Hart at sonomatowns@gmail.com.

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