Project Linus sends love with handmade baby quilts to babies and older children who have a big need of both.
The organization doles out its precious, double-barreled gifts to children big and small in all 50 states, aided by volunteers who quilt and crochet just for the good it does.
Michelle Gawlinski, now in charge of the Naples, FL chapter, has been contributing her handiwork since 2000. “When I was a lieutenant in the Collier County Sheriff’s Department and was raising two kids, the time I could devote was minimal. I gave my crochet quilts to a colleague to deliver. After I retired from that job and my kids were grown, I decided to form a local chapter,” she said. “I think God was in my heart.”
With official sanction from the Belton, Missouri-based organization, she got busy on the phone, finding what places would welcome quilts and what knitting groups might want to participate. She also placed a small newspaper ad.
“There was no shortage of takers,” she explained. “Hospitals, homeless shelters, abuse shelters and the like were happy to give some added comfort to their young guests.”
And there was no dearth of contributors either. Many churches and other organizations have knitting clubs whose members were glad to participate.
She notes that the senior population of Naples is especially good for the project.
“Many older women who crochet are no longer up to complex crochet projects,” she explained, “but they can crochet around a piece of fleece. So not only are they giving something of value to someone in need, but they boost their own sense of accomplishment.”
Sharon Camp, owner of Unique Baby Quilt Boutique in Naples, was a recipient of a gift quilt before she became a contributor.
“When my daughter was ill in All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, FL several years ago, she received a quilt from a local quilter as a gift. It made her feel so special, and she loved cuddling with it,” she said. “I realized that a child at any age would see a soft, snuggly quilt as a security blanket. When the time was right for me, I searched for an organization in our community that gives handmade quilts to local children in need. I found Michelle Gawlinski and Project Linus.
“I design and sew not only baby quilts in my business, but also t-shirt quilts, golf shirt quilts, memory quilts, and bed-sized quilts,” she continued, “but I think giving back is also part of quilting. Many quilters do as I am doing by giving their time and talents. Service comes in not only the money a person can donate but in the donation of time and talents.”
Not that cash is unwelcome. Anyone can contribute to Project Linus by contacting projectlinus.org. and earmarking it for Naples or the chapter in their town. The money is used for the labels, other materials and other incidentals the chapters need to operate.
Ms. Gawlinski says the pleasure of providing these treasured quilts and blankets to babies and youngsters is reward enough, but sometimes there’s a special boost.
“One of our donors sent us a bunch of Beanie Babies, which included a frog. The toys went to a shelter accompanied by some quilts, one of which had a frog design. A five-year-old girl arrived just then with absolutely nothing. She was so thrilled to have a frog quilt and frog toy waiting for her. She wrote us a note saying how happy she was that someone loved her enough to send that gift.”