The Blanketeers: Residents at the Terraces at San Joaquin Gardens Supporting Project Linus and Children in Need
The Central Valley is blessed with so many non-profits that support our community. Jessica Stepp, Coordinator at the Terraces at San Joaquin Gardens found the perfect non-profit for a group of senior resident volunteers that wanted to come together to support a worthy cause.
Cen Cali Life Magazine had an opportunity to interview Jessica who kindly explained how resident volunteers at San Joaquin Gardens, rally together to support Project Linus. Project Linus, is a non-profit organization, that provides homemade blankets to children in need.
Tell us a little bit about yourself Jessica. What's your role within the group?
My name is Jessica Stepp and I am the Assisted Living Lifestyle Enrichment Coordinator at The Terraces at San Joaquin Gardens. Our Assisted Living is called the Lodges and I coordinate all the activities for the Lodge residents. I started the Blanketeer group in the Lodges in 2015. I work with Larissa Badertscher, the Grove Lifestyle Enrichment Coordinator (The Grove is our Memory Support neighborhood) and we both purchase the fleece fabric, cut out the blankets and provide time for our residents and team members to work on the blankets each week.
Tell us a little bit about the Knotting Group.
Actually- we are called “Blanketeers,” which is a term created by Project Linus, the non-profit organization we work with to donate our blankets. Our residents, team members, family and friends all work together to make soft, fleece tie-blankets for children in the Fresno area.
When and how did it get started?
In 2015, I wanted to find a way for the Assisted Living residents in the Lodges at The Terraces at San Joaquin Gardens (also known as TSJG) to be able to support the Fresno community through volunteer opportunities. TSJG is a Certified Center for Successful Aging and volunteerism is a big part of our everyday culture here. Many of our residents used to knit and crochet for local charities in the past and many of our ladies were not able to do that anymore due to arthritis or other physical issues. I had made fleece tie-blankets with other senior ladies before, so I knew this would be something that the residents would be able to do…and have fun doing it! You don’t need to know how to knit, crochet, or sew…all you need to do it tie a knot. I did some research about local charities and came across an article about Project Linus, which is a national organization that collects blankets for many different charities across the country. There is a Central Valley chapter that has a drop-off location at the church next door to TSJG. This was perfect! The Blanketeers meet at least once a week to work on the blankets together as a group. The supplies are also available for the team members and residents to do outside of scheduled Blanketeer activities. Many of our ladies take the blankets home to work on in the evening after dinner. I have residents, their friends and family members who willingly step in and lead the group if I am away as well.
What impact has this group made on the community so far?
Last year, we donated 40 blankets to Project Linus. The ladies at Project Linus work together to sew labels on each blanket and distribute them to local groups in need. Last year, our blankets went to the Fresno Police Department and Fresno Police Chaplaincy. This year our goal is to make 100 blankets and we are already more than halfway there. We will continue to make blankets even if we reach our goal of 100 blankets. There is a great need for blankets of all sizes in the Central Valley and our blankets could go to one of several groups in the Fresno area. Knowing that our blankets are going to children in need is all that matters to us.
What's been one of the most memorable moments so far?
This past April one of our team members lost her home and all of the family’s belongings in a devastating fire. The Blanketeers had been working on blankets the day after the fire and we decided as a group to deliver blankets for each of her three children. We found out what their favorite things were and picked blankets that were special for each child. We couldn’t decide on just one print for each child, so we sent three blankets for each of them. We were making these blankets for children in need and here we had the opportunity to help someone in our own TSJG family- it really reinforced why we are doing what we do.
Where do you see the group headed? What are your goals for the future?
We are going to keep make blankets because there is such a great need in the Central Valley. Each year, we would like to increase our goal.
Can anyone join if they'd like to?
The Blanketeers is open to all our Lodge and Grove residents, team members, family and friends. We would love to have others join us too. We have a great volunteer training program at TSJG and we look forward to having new recruits join us! I am looking for volunteers who would like to help cut the fabric as well as make the blankets with our Lodge residents and team members. For more information on Project Linus, you can visit www.projectlinus.org
Is there anything else we should know? Are there any upcoming events? How about support and donations for the group?