Project Linus blanketeers providing warmth one blanket at a time

Published On: Feb 16 2013 06:13:03 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 16 2013 07:22:53 PM CST
LA CROSSE CO., Wis. -

With a growing number of homeless people in the La Crosse area, volunteers are helping meet the growing need for warmth.

Even before winter officially started, the Salvation Army's homeless shelter in La Crosse started reaching its capacity.

But one special organization is doing its part to provide a little comfort to the children staying there and many others in our area in need.

“More blanketeers (means) more kids get blankets,” said Linda De Long, of Project Linus. “So that's what today is all about.”

Tucked away in the corner room of the YMCA in Onalaska, volunteers, or blanketeers, are taking a few hours out of their day to create comfort in the form of a blanket.

“Children who are in any kind of a stressful situation appreciate a hug and appreciate a loving home made blanket,” said De Long.

It’s part of the second ever "Make a Blanket Day" put on by the La Crosse area's Project Linus Chapter.

Blanket Lady, Linda De Long hopes this day will bring in more blankeeters and blankets.

She's even hoping to beat last year's record number of deliveries.

“583 is a lot of blankets, but there were children that didn't get blankets because I didn't have any to give out,” said De Long.

The Salvation Army in La Crosse is just one of the dozen places that receives Project Linus blankets.

When we checked in on a delivery last November, the shelter's chaplain had 36 blankets on hand for any child who may arrive in the coming months.

“This is our last bag right here,” said Diane Dewalt, the shelter’s chaplain. “To go from two shelves down to four blankets, that says a lot.”

Dewalt said the shelter has seen an increase in the number of families using the shelters and it’s not just because of the colder temps.

“With the economy, we're seeing more people get evicted in the cold months, which doesn't happen as often, but it has been happening a lot this year,” said Dewalt.

The shelter has had to turn away people some nights this season because of reaching capacity.

The shelter then refers them to the nearby warming center, but that site has also filled up many nights this winter as well.

The growing need for blankets isn't just at the Salvation Army's shelter, but throughout the community.

And that means every slit made and every knot tied, is that much more special for blanketeers like Mandi Hortsman.

“It’s just like a warm and fuzzy feeling, which is essentially the same thing you get from a blanket,” said Hortsman.

The La Crosse area Project Linus chapter delivers blankets to organization throughout the La Crosse, Vernon and Trempeleau counties.

De Long hopes to make a delivery in a couple of weeks.

If you know of a child in need of a blanket or if you'd like to help out and become a blanketeer yourself, contact Linda De Long at ldelong13@hotmail.com.