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'Project Linus' gives local quilters a warm, fuzzy feeling

Mary Brauch, project coordinator for Project Linus, hands off a donation of locally made blankets Tuesday to Catie Houck of Someplace Safe in Wadena. Photo by Zach Kayser, Pioneer Journal

The name "Project Linus" may evoke images of a certain band of cartoon kids with unusually large heads, but the organization that bears a name from the "Peanuts" comic strip is being used to do real-life good in the Wadena area.

Project Linus is a nationwide effort to harness the sewing power of those who enjoy making blankets and quilts. The items are donated to kids who are traumatized or seriously ill, through organizations like schools, hospitals and law enforcement. The head of the new local chapter for Todd and Wadena Counties is Mary Brauch, who has been trying to wrangle quilts to donate since September.

Having successfully coordinated a local group of sewers, she gave out the first batch of blankets Tuesday to Someplace Safe in Wadena, a center for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

Catie Houck, crime victim advocate at Someplace Safe, said many of the victims who come in bring children with them, so the blankets are a much-needed resource.

"The children may have to leave all of their belongings behind," Houck said. "These blankets would give them that security of knowing that somebody cares for them and knowing that there are people who are willing to help."

Brauch said she first got the idea to start a local chapter of Project Linus when she found herself with a stack of quilts she had made with no place to donate them. She had a choice of either sending them to the Project Linus chapter in Blackduck, Minn., or the one in Saint Cloud.

"I thought, 'That is too far away,'" Brauch said. "Let's do something in our area."

Brauch also said she hopes to be in touch with social services, schools and police in both Todd and Wadena Counties to let them know about the program. She added that her group will mostly focus on the Todd-Wadena area, but she may operate in neighboring counties as well.

"One thing that really appeals to me about Project Linus is that the main mission is to provide comfort and security through blankets to children who are in need ... but the secondary mission of Project Linus is also to provide an opportunity to people like myself who like to sew, quilt, knit, crochet," Brauch said. "We have a wonderful outlet for us to contribute blankets where we know they'll be put to good use."

Karen Haman, one of the quilters who has donated to Project Linus, spoke of the positive feeling she had because of the program.

"It's fun to know that some child or teenager is just going to really love this quilt," Haman said.

Brauch said people wishing to donate blankets may do so at Ben Franklin Crafts in Wadena during normal business hours. Blankets must be composed of new and washable materials in a smoke-free environment, and may range in size from 36 square inches to 60 inches by 72 inches.

If someone wishes to receive a blanket individually, they may contact Mary Brauch directly at 218-895-5848.