Providing a Blanket of Comfort to Local Hospice Patients
Dec 21, 2016
By Becky Laney, Founder of Berrien County Blanket Brigade
It was October and my father was in hospice care in Kalamazoo. He loved sitting outside and being pushed around the grounds in his wheelchair. As the fall air grew chilly, I went to the store and purchased a small, blue and grey fleece blanket to cover his lap during our walks.
My brother and I spent the following weeks by my father’s side. The blanket covered my dad as he slept; my brother used it as he slept in the chair next to my dad; my mom wrapped it around her shoulders as she held my dad's hand.
When my dad passed, I brought the blanket home. That night, I reached for the blanket and could still smell my dad. I grieved with that blanket for months. My children would ask for "grandpa's blanket" when they weren't feeling well and many times, we all snuggled under it and reminisced about him.
One morning I was standing in my bathroom, not thinking about hospice, when I heard "Blanket Brigade." I yelled for my husband and explained my idea—I wanted to provide a fleece blanket for every hospice patient in Berrien County.
Soon after, my husband and I were approached with a request to make a donation to the Merlin and Carolyn Hanson Hospice Center. We eagerly wrote a check but also asked if we could try to make my idea become a reality. Linda Beushausen and Melinda Gruber said, "absolutely" and I got to work.
As I started, I knew I couldn't make all of the blankets myself. When I learned the Key Club at my daughter’s school provided volunteers, I had another idea—adolescent volunteers could help make the blankets and with every knot they tie, instill good energy and positive thoughts.
Our first “Blanket Brigade” meeting in December of 2012, consisted of a handful of Key Clubbers and 5-year-old, Belle, whose mother saw my post on Facebook asking for volunteers. Belle is now our mascot. She frequently attends our meetings and continues to spread the word and bring other young friends.
The following month, a few more Key Clubbers showed up. A Girl Scout group contacted me and asked to participate, then church groups started calling. The Blanket Brigade took off. I had so many kids wanting to help; we had to move our “operation” to the Hospice at Home community room. Our group has continued to grow every month and we never lack volunteers!
The blankets we make bring comfort to patients, assist families in the grieving process, and allow me the chance to discuss hospice care with children and teenagers. Often, children approach me during our blanket-making sessions and tell me about a relative who is in hospice care or talk about someone who is sick or dying. They learn about what hospice is and that it is okay to talk about death.
Though the kids have often requested, we do not actually hand-deliver the blankets to patients. After making the blanket, the kids sign a card and attach it with a ribbon to the blanket. And like little elves, we leave our pile of blankets at Hospice at Home for the employees to discover on Monday morning.
Since its inception in 2012, the Berrien County Blanket Brigade nonprofit 501(c)(3) has made and donated more than 1,433 blankets to Berrien County Hospice.
The Blanket Brigade meets monthly and accepts fleece material, no sew fleece blanket kits, snacks for the volunteers, and monetary donations. If you or someone you know would like to assist in making blankets or donating supplies, visit Berrien County Blanket Brigade on Facebook, call (269) 568-0553, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.