Ellen Knoefel blankets children with love. As the Western North Carolina chapter coordinator for Project Linus, she leads 500 volunteers who create handmade blankets to be distributed to children who are either sick or have been traumatized. In 2012 alone, the WNC chapter of the national organization donated more than 4,000 blankets to children in 12 North Carolina counties. Another 36 went to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Knoefel, who says she is always on the lookout for new blanket makers, called “blanketeers,” says the work is extremely fulfilling.
“It’s a win-win situation,” the Buncombe County native says. “As we give, we really get more out it of than the children. This chapter was started in 1998, and since that time, we’ve given out over 40,000 blankets.”
Knoefel says she got involved with Project Linus after moving back to Buncombe County from California, where she worked for the Department of Health Services.
“I was looking for the right volunteer experience, and I saw an article in the newspaper about giving out blankets to children,” she says. “It peaked my interest. I started in 2000 as a blanket maker, and I moved on and on and on until now I am the chapter coordinator. It’s really a full-time job, but I love it.”
Approximately 60 WNC facilities and organizations receive handmade blankets from the WNC blanketeers, including hospitals, shelters, American Red Cross, law enforcement and children’s homes. One of the most rewarding experiences Knoefel has had through Project Linus involves special blankets made for autistic children.
“We make weighted blankets for children who have a sensory processing disorder,” she says. “This has been a very moving experience for me. I delivered six to the special classes at Valley Springs Middle School, and it was emotional to see what a difference our weighted blankets can make for them. It has been proven that weight is a calming mechanism for these children.”
Making these blankets requires both people and materials. Anyone interested in helping can contact Knoefel at 828-645-8800.
Chapter volunteers also meet monthly to process the blankets that are collected.
“They get a special label sewn in that says ‘Made for You by Project Linus,” Knoefel says. “If someone is interested in meeting, just call me.”