Cottage Hospital Honors Its Volunteers Who Make Blankets for Young Patients
By Ted Mills, News-Press Correspondent
Jaynie Wood, left, child life specialist at Cottage Children's Medical Center, helps patient Kierstin Rush, 17, pick out a blanket. Credit: Erick Madrid/News-Press
More than 40 volunteers in Cottage Hospital's Project Linus program got a thank-you at a Tuesday afternoon luncheon for their donations of more than 900 knitted and quilted blankets this last year.
The blankets, whether for the youngest and most vulnerable babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or for teens going through the upheaval of a hospital stay, are all appreciated. And nobody minds if they are taken home. In fact, many blankets become a sign of security during what can be a scary time.
Jaynie Wood, Cottage's child life specialist, says the blankets have a role in her work.
"They are comfort, support, and something to hold on to," she said. "Often times the hold on to them during their stay. They'll often bring them back when they've been here multiple times. ... They withstand the test of time."
The blankets can be solid colors or they can have patterns or pop culture pictures. They can be knitted or quilted, or altered in any number of fun ways by the volunteers. And for the volunteers who agree to help out, it can be addicting.
Iris Scott is the Project Linus coordinator for the county, and has been in it for four years after picking up the mantle of the previous coordinator. Mrs. Scott collects blankets and organizes drop-off locations. Dozens can come in at any time.
"A project like this can get out of hand and take over your life," she said.
The program has been going for more than a decade, and Ms. Wood says it has been instrumental in helping young patients heal.
One of the busiest volunteers is Joanne Logan, who began making blankets when her husband — who attended the luncheon alongside his wife — had open-heart surgery.
Once she found out about Project Linus, "I felt like it was something I could do," she said. "I had been a seamstress in my past and I loved sewing, creating and babies. And I thought that quilting had a purpose."
In 10 years, she has brought in 300 blankets. "I quilt by day and knit by evening," she said.
Several groups take part, including the Samarkand knitting group, the Goleta Library, the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, the Cub Scouts Day Camp, Santa Barbara Fiber Arts, and the Church of Scientology.
Beyond Cottage Hospital, the blankets also go to young mothers in transition and other shelters.
Kierstin Rush, a 17-year-old from Santa Maria who regularly visits Cottage for treatment, chose a blanket from the pile laid out in the luncheon room Tuesday.
She took a light yellow one with elephants because she loves animals, she said. Growing up, she didn't have stuffed animals or dolls for comfort — instead she loved her blanket.
"It had all kinds of lions and zebras and elephants all over it. It's at home in a box somewhere, sadly!" She knows that such a thing can make a difference to a child.
"I think these blankets make a difference," she said, "because some children find comfort in objects more than people."
Volunteers may never get to see what happens to their handiwork, Ms. Wood said.
"But know that every stitch sees a face and a family and that they are loved. And know that years down the line, these blankets matter."
Reprinted with permission from Santa Barbara News-Press