SHERIDAN — Warmth, comfort and relaxation are feelings commonly associated with a blanket but to a child, it can mean much more.
To a little person wrapped in a big quilt there is often a sense of security, like being enveloped in a hug.
Many children develop attachments to their belongings, “security blankets” in particular, but what if circumstances beyond their control remove them from their homes, from their sense of security or from their belongings?
A nonprofit organization in Sheridan is using their hands to warm others’ hearts with one-of-a-kind quilts, many of which are donated to the Child Advocacy Services of the Big Horns.
Love in Stitches was started by Cynthia Whiteman and Penny Covalt in February of last year and was just recently awarded their 501(c)3 status.
Covalt was previously involved with Project Linus, a national organization that provides homemade blankets to children in need, particularly critically ill children.
The only chapter in Wyoming is in Cheyenne and she was interested in bringing the cause to Sheridan, but the group was not looking to add new chapters at the time.
Whiteman was a long-time quilting hobbyist. Her mother made quilts when she was young and she took up the family hobby when she became a mother herself.
Covalt approached Whiteman about the cause and the duo decided to start their own organization.
The ladies have been making quilts and donating them to various charities with the majority of the cost for the quilts coming out of their own pockets.
Now, as a registered charitable organization, they can begin to accept donations and with that hope to expand their services.
In February, the newly official group decided to make a quilt for each of the children graduating from the Head Start preschool in the spring.
The largest single donation the team has made, 36 quilts were made for the 5-year-olds leaving the state-funded school.
“We’re hoping to start doing that annually now that we know we can handle it,” Whiteman said, “but we don’t want to take away from the other places we’re supporting either.”
To date the CASBH has received a majority of their creations and Visitation and Exchange Coordinator Hesid Brandov-Ysrael said much of the time the quilts go to children who have nothing.
“Some kids are allowed to or have time to pack-up their own items before leaving their home, but some kids leave with nothing,” she said. “For a child to have their own quilt is really something special.”
Brandov-Ysrael said many of the quilts end up going to foster children who have been removed from their home.
“A lot of our kids are younger so they cannot really express gratitude,” she said, “but the smiles on their faces when they receive the quilt says it all.”
Though Whiteman said roughly 60 percent of their quilts went to CASBH last year, she was quick to add that sometimes adults need a nice blanket too.
“One of the lenders at First Interstate Bank approached us and said she had a customer whose house flooded and they had to get out quickly and lost everything so we made them some quilts,” she said. “Children are really the basis of our group but we want to help all people in need.”
Love in Stitches has a goal of crafting 100 quilts this year, even though the group only consists of four official members.
Covalt’s mother quilts for the team but lives five hours away and sends the blankets back to Sheridan whenever her daughter comes to visit.
The fourth member, Irene Stevens, knew she wanted to help the cause but didn’t know one important thing: how to sew.
“Irene didn’t even know how to thread the sewing machine but after just a couple days of reviewing patterns and things with me, she started,” Whiteman said. “It’s not something that is really hard to learn, it just takes patience and a creative mind.”
The group meets monthly at Sunrise General Assembly Church to set goals and log completed quilts for donation, but Whiteman added that quilters who wish to help without becoming an official member are welcome to donate their creations to Love in Stitches to be placed in a needing home.
And for those who do not want to put needle to cloth, the team always needs people to help with the other aspects including cutting fabric and ironing — jobs currently being done by the women’s teenage children.
Other than helping hands, Whiteman says the biggest current need of the group is supplies.
“Fabric is not cheap,” she said. “Quilts have to be made with a certain type of fabric so some of what we’ve received couldn’t be used but we don’t like to be wasteful, so we use that and all of our scraps to make pet beds and donate them to the Dog and Cat Shelter.”
Pending the receipt of more supplies and crafty people, Whiteman says the next step for Love in Stitches is to expand blanket coverage to the children’s wing of Sheridan Memorial Hospital.
“Sometimes kids need a warm hug in a cold place, so to have a blanket for the kids in the CASA program, the court system or the hospital… sometimes just having a security blanket that they can take with them wherever they go is the key,” she said. “It feels good to get it done, see it and know it will be somewhere it will be appreciated.”