Warming hearts one blanket at a time

Mak­ing a dif­fer­ence: Dor­is Wad­dell (left) and Janet Geissler (right) make blankets that are donated to sick chil­dren.

Janet Geissler has a warm place in her heart for sick kids. Key in on the words, “warm” and “heart.” For the last dec­ade, the Burholme res­id­ent and an army of vo­lun­teers have been mak­ing soft, warm blankets to be dis­trib­uted to ill chil­dren in and around Phil­adelphia by Pro­ject Linus. Kids in hos­pit­als like Chil­dren’s Hos­pit­al of Phil­adelphia or St. Chris­toph­er’s Hos­pit­al for Chil­dren are the re­cip­i­ents.

Geissler is a chapter co­ordin­at­or for the non­profit Pro­ject Linus. She and the oth­er vo­lun­teers have made thou­sands of blankets. Plenty of cut­ting, crochet­ing, knit­ting, sew­ing, time and love go in­to their work. They keep none of the blankets for them­selves no mat­ter how much they like them; they’re all for the kids.

“It’s a piece of your heart you’re giv­ing away,” Geissler said dur­ing a mid-Oc­to­ber in­ter­view at the Deer Mead­ows re­tire­ment com­munity, where she and vo­lun­teers like res­id­ent Dor­is Wad­dell make a lot of blankets.

Geissler said she hears from many people who are grate­ful for the work Pro­ject Linus does. “They can’t be­lieve people would take time to make something for a child they will nev­er meet.”

Geissler works in re­cords man­age­ment for Pruden­tial in Dresh­er, Pa., and gets a lot of sup­port — and time — from her em­ploy­er for her vo­lun­teer work.

The fam­ous in­sur­ance com­pany en­cour­ages its work­ers to get in­volved in their com­munit­ies across the coun­try and the world, and Geissler is one of the best, said Har­old Banks, com­mu­nic­a­tions pro­ject man­ager for Pruden­tial.

“She is one of our mod­el vo­lun­teers,” he said last month.

That was es­pe­cially true on Oct. 15, a day the com­pany’s em­ploy­ees ded­ic­ated to vo­lun­teer­ism. Twenty-three thou­sand Pruden­tial em­ploy­ees were in­volved in pro­jects all over the world on that day, Banks said. However, he said, “We have many em­ploy­ees who vo­lun­teer all year long.” Geissler is one of them.

It’s just that Oct. 15 was a big ef­fort. Geissler said she roun­ded up 93 blankets that day.

Sit­ting in a Deer Mead­ows room stuffed with ma­ter­i­al, Wad­dell said she and a hand­ful of oth­er res­id­ents fin­ish 300 to 350 blankets per year.

All the blankets are made from donated ma­ter­i­als, Geissler said, and the em­phas­is is on cheer­ing col­ors.

“We try to keep it bright and happy,” she said. “Dead mouse brown is what I don’t want.”

Throughout Great­er Phil­adelphia, Geissler said, she has or­gan­ized hun­dreds of vo­lun­teers who work on their own.

“I have three oth­er re­tire­ment groups, and a bunch of in­di­vidu­als,” Geissler said. 

At Deer Mead­ows, however, it’s a group en­deavor. The ladies who make blankets at the Roosevelt Boulevard fa­cil­ity meet at 1 p.m. on Wed­nes­days, Wad­dell said.

Any­one can help out, Wad­dell said. Right now, “All my ladies crochet,” she said. 

She said she pitches join­ing up to any of Deer Mead­ows’ “new­bies,” hop­ing they’ll join up and help.

But any­one is wel­come to vo­lun­teer, Geissler said, and nobody has to join any groups or do any trav­el­ing.

“People can do this in their homes,” she said, stress­ing that there are many people who would like to vo­lun­teer in their com­munit­ies, but aren’t sure how.

This is one way, she said. Any­one in­ter­ested may call Geissler at 267-735-9695 or send her an email at janet­linus@msn.com ••

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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