Last Saturday, was filled with the whir of sewing machines, the buzz of women talking over the hum and the occasional ding of a bell as prizes were handed out.
As they do every other month, dozens of volunteers from across the suburbs gathered at the church to make blankets for the local chapter of Project Linus, a nationwide nonprofit that donates blankets to sick and needy children.
“To be able to give back and help other people, the children and their families, it’s a gift and an honor,” said co-chairwoman Linda Neuman, who runs the North and Central Chicagoland group with fellow co-chair Judi Goldman.
Goldman and Neuman found out about the local chapter, which was founded in 1996, through an ad in the Northbrook Star. The pair met for the first time at the chapter’s first meeting held at the .
In total, 12 women showed up that day, but the organization now counts several hundred members from throughout the northern and northwestern Chicago suburbs, Goldman said. Each month, the group donates 800-1,000 blankets to local hospitals and social service agencies, including Children’s Memorial, Lutheran General, the Ronald McDonald House, Court Appointed Special Advocates and Hospice of North East Illinois.
Since its inception, the chapter has donated 80,000 blankets to various organizations.
While Goldman and Neuman, both quilters, originally made blankets themselves, today they consider running the group to be nearly a full-time job--one that’s entirely unpaid. There’s a children's program to oversee, as well as what Goldman describes as an “army of volunteers” who pick up and drop off the blankets. In addition to the bimonthly “blanket days,” the group meets once a month to work on fleece blankets and to stitch together at a in Northbrook.
Blanket days, however, are the busiest of all, and last Saturday was no exception. Quilters bent over their machines in a “jelly roll” race, with the goal being to stitch strips of patterned fabric into a striped quilt as quickly as possible.
Diana Krage of Deerfield, who came in second, said that she loves participating in Project Linus not just because of the opportunity to help children but for the community of quilters, crocheters and knitters.
“It’s kind of addictive to come here and spend your day with these ladies,” she said.
Liss Kundich, a quilter from Huntley, was the first-place winner in the jelly roll race, completing her quilt in 42 minutes.
“It’s not fair, though, I’ve made about 14 already, it's not like I’m a novice,” Kundich said, as she fed strips of fabric through her sewing machine for a second quilt.
“Quilting is a passion, you have to love it or you hate it,” explained Kundich, who got started with Project Linus in California and came to Chicago to be near her children and grandchildren.
“It was just a passion I have,” she said. “You know, the world’s given us a lot, in America, to be grateful for.”
Gratitude is part of what motivates Judi Goldman, who stores the group’s backlog of extra quilts in her finished basement.
“We ran into someone who, when we told her were from Project Linus, she got tears in her eyes,” Goldman said. ”She lost her husband and her son goes to the hospice camp and got a Project Linus blanket.”
“It’s changed my life,” Neuman added. “It’s just brought such joy and happiness to my life.”
The group is gearing up for a special Appreciation Tea from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 10 at Northbrook United Methodist Church. In honor of the theme, “Once Upon a Time,” members are competing to create the best blankets that relate to children’s books.
Along with lunch and handmade goodie bags for those who sign up, the group will be raffling off a handmade quilt designed to look like a bookshelf, as well as an American Girl Doll.
Naturally, she comes with an array of dresses hand-sewn by members—plus a collection of tiny blankets.