Northwest NEWS

Nember 13, 2000

Front Page

Made by the 'Wednesday ladies' with loving care

* by Bronwyn Wilson
   Senior Staff Reporter
   BOTHELL - The coffee is brewing and the chocolate cake looks rich and decadent. The blankets - and there are lots of them - festoon a long table on one side of the room.
   In all kinds of patterns and in bright happy colors, from fire-engine red to sunshine yellow, the blankets are folded or draped or hanging. "The Wednesday Ladies Coffee Group" at Woodcrest Estates in Bothell is gathered at the community clubhouse for coffee and cake and to show their blankets.
   The ladies have made about 50 quilts, afghans and baby blankets in the past two months.
   And these blankets are not Christmas presents for their children or grandchildren or even their husbands.
   Instead, the blankets are destined for traumatized children, those who live in shelters or who are ill in the hospital.
   Also, some of their blankets will go to teens and even adults who need a reminder that someone cares.
   Their work is part of a non-profit national organization called Project Linus, named after the well-known blanket-clutching Peanuts character. Through the nationwide efforts of volunteers in the organization, over a quarter million handmade security blankets have been given to children going though difficult times.
   Dee Vashaw and Mel Green, residents of Woodcrest Estates and members of the coffee group, have participated in Project Linus for two years.
   In that time, along with many of the other ladies in their group, they have crocheted, knitted and quilted about 300 blankets.
   There are 18 to 21 ladies in their group and though not all take part in sewing, the group is united in the effort.
   They collect yarn and batting from their neighbors or from fabric stores. The material is then stored in huge bins in their community clubhouse for the sewing ladies' use.
   Vashaw was the first to suggest Project Linus to the Wednesday ladies group.
   She had noticed a picture in the newspaper of a child wrapped in a blanket and an accompanying article about the national organization and its need for volunteers. Vashaw has been sewing for as long as her 60-year marriage and so the idea of sewing blankets for children was a natural response for her.
   At first, the group didn't give Vashaw's suggestion a huge reception. But then a few got on board and eventually everyone joined in the project.
   This winter, Vashaw will be heading south to her retreat in Arizona. But not without her sewing machine.
   And when she returns in March, she'll have another 25 blankets to comfort and cheer 25 more kids. And while the rain pelts the Northwest this winter, Mel Green and many of the other ladies from the coffee group will have their sewing machines humming in the basement of the clubhouse.
   "One day a week we'll have a workshop," Green said.
   Meanwhile in between stitching and knitting, the ladies hunt for fabric and yarn.
   "I go to garage sales, and if they have yarn, I ask them to give me a call if they have any yarn left over," Vashaw said. Then added, "People do call."
   There are numerous organizations, shelters and hospitals who are recipients of the ladies' handiwork‹from Overlake and Evergreen hospitals who request newborn-size blankets, to the University of Washington Medical Center who wants blankets for their patients in the bone marrow transplant/cancer unit.
   According to Maggie Downing, Co-coordinator of the Seattle Chapter of Project Linus, half of the blankets the organization receives go to shelters and the rest go to hospitals.
   She said that the coffee group donated 50 blankets last January to the children who lost a parent, grandparent or sibling in the Alaska Airlines crash off the coast of California.
   They also donated blankets to families who lost a home in the New Mexico fires last summer. Project Linus Chapters across the nation donate blankets in times of crisis and natural disaster.
   For example, blankets were sent to those who lost a loved one in the tragic shooting at Columbine High School and blankets were given to homeless families during the floods back East a year ago.
   Recently, Project Linus announced they will be dissolving the organization on Dec. 31.
   Though they have 400 chapters across the United States, Canada and several other countries, resources which couldn't keep pace with the tremendous growth were cited as the reason.
   However, there is a possibility the national organization will not disband as there is talk of another supporter taking command.
   Nevertheless, the Wednesday ladies coffee group will continue to go forward and so will the Seattle Chapter of Project Linus.
   If Project Linus dissolves, they will join Binky Patrol, another non-profit organization with the same purpose and goal as Project Linus.
   "Nothing will change," Downing said. "Except the name and the labels which are sewn into each blanket." Instead of bearing the likeness of Linus, the Binky Patrol labels have a yawning moon.
   Both organizations have the desire to make a difference in the life of a child who is terminally ill, abused or experiencing trauma.
   The ladies will continue to get together to enjoy each others' company over coffee each Wednesday. They'll also continue to sacrifice their time to help children they'll never meet.
   Their hope is that a handmade quilt in electric blue or a plush afghan in shades of pink will ease a hurting child's pain.
   For further information, contact Maggie Downing at (425) 861-6943 or e-mail her at downingkid@aol.com.