By Linda Dillman
While many school-based community service projects were put on hold as organizers re-group to determine how best to move forward while following pandemic restrictions, Canal Winchester eighth graders are making life warmer right now for children in foster care.
For the first time, students are in the midst of spending part of their in-class time making blankets for a My Very Own Blanket drive. Teachers worked behind the scenes for a few months soliciting donations and fleece.
The mission of the My Very Own Blanket organization, created in 2000 by Westerville resident Jessica Rudolph, is to provide every child in the foster care system with a handmade blanket, which now comfort children across Ohio and 16 other states.
“Last year at Christmas, my family forgo the tradition of giving each other stockings and decided to replace it with an act that helped others,” said ELA teacher Miranda Swartz. “My Nana had organized for us to all make blankets for My Very Own Blanket. I was very moved by the overall goal of the organization and wanted to find additional ways to be involved with the organization. I introduced the organization to my team, and we all felt it was a project all students would be engaged in.”
All school-based eighth grade students are participating in the project. Students are responsible for cutting and tying the blankets, as well as decorating a tag that goes on each blanket to tell the child receiving the blanket who made it.
Teachers, along with students who have sewing experience, volunteered to sew tags onto the blanket. The goal was to make 191 blankets, which would represent a blanket for each school-based 8th grade student at CWMS.
“At this point we have met that goal and we are very grateful. Right now, we are well on our way to having over 300 blankets,” said Swartz. “Our goal now is to just continue to make as many as we can since donations to My Very Own Blanket have been low for the year given the pandemic. Their goal for the year is 25,000 and they currently have just above 10,000.”
Local organizers are accepting donations of jumbo 2.5 gal. Ziploc bags; minimum fleece donations of 1.5 yards; gift cards to Walmart, JoAnn Fabrics and Hobby Lobby; and cash or checks made out to CWMS until Thanksgiving break.
Swartz said teachers asked for donations of the jumbo bags, so each student has their own bag with the supplies they need to make the blanket. Students keep their supplies in their individual bag. Any shared supplies like scissors and sharpies are sanitized by teachers between use.
The blankets will be left in their individual bag when they are delivered to My Very Own Blanket. Blankets will remain in the bags for a week or two for quarantine.
“We would like to ensure our donation is made during this calendar year so we will need to have all blankets completed prior to winter break,” Swartz said.
Community members can send donations directly to the middle school in care of Miranda Swartz or use a contactless drop-off bin at the front of the school before entering the main office. You will need to show identification to gain access to the bin, but you will not need to enter the main office.