Just a month after 9/11, a woman visited Normandy Farms Estates in Blue Bell, Pa., a continuing-care retirement community where her mother was a resident, on an important mission: to recruit some new "Blanketeers."
The visitor was a volunteer with Project Linus, established in 1996 and named after the blanket-hugging character in the "Peanuts" comic strip. It's a national nonprofit organization that distributes homemade blankets to seriously ill and traumatized children.
That day she talked about the organization's work but apologized for not having any samples to show. They'd all gone to the children of those who'd lost their lives on 9/11 or been injured working at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and at the site near Shanksville, Pa., where United Airlines Flight 93 went down.
"The women who met said, 'We want to help — we want to do something to help children," recalls Sandy Stiegler, who was then the director of resident services at Normandy Farms. "And we've been making blankets ever since."
The "Blanketeers" of Normandy Farms — some of them part of an afghan-making club called the "Knit Wits" — have lovingly crafted hundreds of blankets and afghans over the years that have provided warmth, comfort and a sense of security to children in hospitals, temporary housing and shelters.
"I think that's what life is really about — making lemonade out of lemons," Stiegler says. "I think from adversity we gain our strength, and from adversity we realize our common humanity."
Speakers (in order of appearance): Marge Belfatto, Dorothy Colmery, Sandy Stiegler
Interviewer/sound recordist: Kimberly Haas
Photos: Bill Cramer/ Wonderful Machine