Project Linus’s ‘Blanketeers’ Donate Homemade Blankets to Children in Need—Here’s How to Help

Project Linus
Project Linus

In 1995, when Karen Loucks read an article that mentioned how a “blankie” helped comfort a 3-year-old during chemotherapy for leukemia, she decided to donate some homemade blankets to a cancer center in Denver.

It was the beginning of Project Linus, an organization that has since grown to include an estimated 80,000 volunteers and has chapters in each state. Through its expansion, the original mission has stayed exactly the same: to provide quality handmade “security” blankets to children battling illness or trauma. According to Project Linus’s current president, Patty Gregory, they’ve given away more than 7.8 million blankets, and their annual total falls somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000.

Gregory’s involvement with the project began in 2000, when she happened to see Project Linus featured on television. Having just lost her 6-year-old niece to brain cancer, the idea of providing something safe and comfortable to children who were suffering really resonated with her, and she was soon working as the coordinator of the group's Kansas City chapter. In August 2016, Gregory was named president/CEO of Project Linus.

“These blankets provide a sense of security for children who are ill and traumatized,” Gregory tells Mental Floss. “It gives them something to hold on to, to hug.”

The blankets, many of which feature animals, whimsical patterns, and vibrant colors, also help break up the often monochromatic, clinical monotony of healthcare institutions.

Every blanket is knitted, sewn, or otherwise handmade by a volunteer “blanketeer,” and Project Linus is committed to ensuring that each one is in top-notch condition before delivering it to a hospital or shelter to be given to a child. Blankets must be new, washable, and completely free of contaminants like pet hair or cigarette smoke.

As long as you adhere to those quality standards and approach each blanket-making endeavor with care and kindness, you have almost everything you need to become a blanketeer yourself—no experience necessary.

“Anyone can make a blanket,” Gregory says. Project Linus’s website also includes an extensive list of suggested patterns from blogs, other sites, and individuals, ranging from “Lili’s Hug,” a weighted blanket pattern suited for children with sensory processing difficulties, to “Bulky Baby Blanket,” a “thick, squishy knit blanket to keep babies cozy in cold weather.”

If you’d like to practice a little before entering the ranks of blanketeers, or just don’t have time to commit to crafting, there are a couple other ways that you can support Project Linus, especially as they approach their busy holiday season.

You could make a monetary donation by mail or online here. In addition to needing funds for printing, shipping, and accounting, they also use donations to purchase blanket-making supplies. Or you could actually donate some of those supplies, like yarn, fabric, and cotton batting—just make sure to check with your chapter coordinator first to see what they might need.

You can find the nearest chapter or a blanket drop-off site here.

Food for Fines: Many Communities Let Residents Pay Parking Tickets With Canned Food Donations

Warren_Price/iStock via Getty Images
Warren_Price/iStock via Getty Images

Depending on where you live, paying off your parking tickets could be a chance to give back to the underserved members of your community this holiday season. Towns, cities, and universities across the country are embracing food for fines programs: initiatives that allow residents to settle their parking debts by donating non-perishable food items.

Accepting canned goods in lieu of cash parking ticket payments isn't a new practice. Lexington, Kentucky has been running holiday food for fines drives since 2013. Even in larger cities, like Las Vegas, such programs have proven successful. Recently in Muncie, Indiana, the local police department used it as an opportunity to collect pet supplies instead of pantry staples.

The model has become more popular in recent years, and this holiday season, it will be easier than ever to find a food for fines program near you. In Bay Village, Ohio, a city located about 15 miles west of Cleveland, officials are looking for non-perishables to provide to the local Bay Food Ministry. Individual items are worth $5 in owed parking fines, with the town waiving up to $25 per person.

Universities are also hopping on board the trend. At the University of Colorado Boulder, students can donate five items to have their parking tickets forgiven. Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania has already collected more than 100 cans from students through its own food for fines program.

Many of the initiatives will run through this Friday and conclude ahead of Thanksgiving week, so if you have a parking ticket you need to pay off, contact your local parking services office soon to see if it's participating.

John Green Is Donating $6.5 Million to Sierra Leone's Healthcare System—And You Can Help

vlogbrothers, YouTube
vlogbrothers, YouTube

One in every 17 women in Sierra Leone, Africa, will die during pregnancy or childbirth—that’s the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.

To help provide the time, attention, and resources needed to effect systemic change in the country, bestselling author and longtime Mental Floss contributor John Green just announced that his family is donating a total of $6.5 million over the next five years to the Sierra Leone branch of Partners in Health (PIH), an organization that supplies poor communities with medical resources and works with local governments to establish long-term healthcare infrastructure.

In a video posted on his vlogbrothers YouTube channel (which he runs with his brother, Hank) Green explains that the high maternal mortality rate is partly due to a large-scale shortage of basic necessities like electricity, running water, and transportation. Without electricity, nighttime deliveries are dangerous and refrigerating blood for transfusions is impossible; without running water, it’s difficult to sanitize tools; and without ambulances, the best option for women who need emergency cesarean sections is a long ride to the hospital on the back of a motorbike.

Because the solution isn’t specific to just one thing, the country pretty much needs to build a better healthcare system from the ground up. With the help of PIH and donations from Green and other outlets, Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation is dedicated to doing just that. In the Kono District, they’ll hire more community healthcare workers, strengthen primary care centers, and build a Maternal Center of Excellence in the government hospital with an NICU, operating rooms, and more.

If you think it seems like those objectives might cost even more than $6.5 million to achieve, you’re right. PIH’s overall fundraising goal is $25 million in the next five years, and they’re already more than halfway there.

Green is hoping to raise a little over $1 million each year, and every dollar helps. If you have a few to spare, you can donate to the campaign here.

There’s also a group of matching donors who have pledged to match up to $120,000 in donations per year. If you can contribute $2000 or more and would like to join that group, you can email John for details at sparksflyup@gmail.com.

sierra leonean mother and child
vlogbrothers, YouTube

Sierra Leone might have the highest maternal mortality rate right now, but there are similar crises happening all over the world. With this endeavor, PIH wants to demonstrate that improving healthcare systems isn’t impossible and also be a guide for other organizations hoping to replicate their work.

Looking to give to other altruistic causes, too? Here are 15 more incredible organizations helping women around the world.

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