Even before Charles Schultz created his lovable "Peanuts" character Linus, blankets and kids have been a universally recognized combination. For children in need, a soft cuddly blanket can be even more meaningful. A local organization has taken on the task of producing and distributing hand-made fleece blankets to at-risk, abused, and neglected children in and beyond the Tri-Valley.
"We fill a very small niche," remarks Jo Molz, who founded the nonprofit Blankets For Kids in 2004 from her Pleasanton home. "Kids roll up inside the blankets to protect themselves against what happens outside. It's a shame this is necessary, but it's also terrific" to be able to help provide this kind of comfort, she says.
When her daughter first showed her how to make the blankets from a design found on the Internet, Molz had no idea the undertaking would become such a significant part of her life. As a retiree, she had not planned to take on another job. But her daughter kept after her, and the next thing they knew they had completed 30 blankets to deliver. These days, Molz and the volunteers she has recruited make and distribute more than 2,500 blankets every year, for a total of 15,000-plus over the lifetime of the organization.
The majority of the blankets have been made by the residents of Ridgeview Commons in Pleasanton, where a loyal group of anywhere from 15 to 35 seniors meets every week in a gathering akin to an old-fashioned quilting bee. Many of the participants are well into their 80s and 90s, and several have vision problems, Molz relates. Still, they are eager to join in the socializing, and because the blankets are so easy to make - simply cutting the fleece to size and then pulling and tying threads to create fringe around the edges; no sewing - they can easily contribute. Molz herself attends the sessions as often as she can. "I hate missing a get-together," she says. "The ladies are just delightful."
A smaller - "but growing" - contingent at Pleasanton Gardens meets to make blankets once a month, and numerous others, from scout troops and church groups to individuals hosting "blanket parties," are involved in the effort as well.
The blankets, in three sizes to fit toddlers through adolescents, get to their recipients through many different agencies and programs that serve vulnerable children. Among the distributing organizations are the Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon, and Livermore police departments; Alameda County Child Protection Agency, Hayward and Oakland; Calico Center, Castro Valley; Agape Villages, San Ramon; Tri-Valley Haven and Shepherd's Gate, Livermore; and My Stuff Bags in Westlake Village, Los Angeles.
Despite the widespread effort, there are still fewer blankets made than children in need. As head of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Molz relies entirely on volunteers and donations, paying expenses like gas, stationery, and stamps out of her own pocket. "Every penny that comes in goes to buying fleece wholesale in Los Angeles," she notes, making an appeal for new volunteers or contributions of money or fleece.
The personal touch is a special part of the program's appeal, she points out: "The hand-made blankets tell the children that someone cares." For more information, call (925) 846-6155 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
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