Local women craft blankets at City Hall. photo provided
Local women craft blankets at City Hall. photo provided
A child has just been evaluated at the KIDS Center for suspected neglect or abuse ... before leaving, the child gets to choose a cozy fleece blanket to take home...

It's called Heartwarmers.

Women have been gathering in Bend and in Sisters to make fleece blankets for children treated at the KIDS Center, Grandma's House and Saving Grace in Bend and for the American Cancer Society Resource Center. In the past few weeks the groundswell response of women wanting to be a part of this "blanketing" has been remarkable. Mary Tomjack, a Plainview resident and the initiator of this movement, has been thrilled with the community response. In a short few weeks, the two groups of women, one in Bend and one in Sisters, have already produced and donated over 50 blankets.

It all started when Tomjack received a blanket from an old friend in Georgia, along with instructions on how to make one. Her friend was involved in making fleece blankets for a community project. Attracted to the appealing fleece, Mary made nine blankets in short order. She showed one to an acquaintance who happened to work at the KIDS Center, who suggested Mary donate them to children who need a comforting touch. The KIDS Center treats an average of two children a day.

In that moment Heart-warmers was conceived. Mary told a group of friends in Bend about her vision and they were immediately on board; they met the next Thursday at the Rosie Bareis Campus to begin production. Word spread and within a week, she had to find a place to meet and make blankets in Sisters. Laurie Bretz, a graphic designer, volunteered to make tags to put on the finished product. PEO groups have taken on Heartwarmers as a project, and women unable to make blankets have generously donated money to purchase fleece to further the "blanketing."

The blankets are made with two layers of fleece. They are fringed and tied together, making a reversible blanket. The fleece is cuddly soft and machine-washable. Fleece comes in a vast variety of colors and prints, making fun for the creators and the new owners of blankets. Women need only to bring a pair of scissors and a willing heart to the gatherings. Purchasing fleece fabric on sale, Mary has a supply of fleece ready for cutting at the meetings, so the women can get right to it. Working as a team, two volunteers can cut and tie a teenager-sized blanket in two hours. The groups meet every two weeks. Since Tomjack envisioned "blanketing Bend" she has discovered that she wasn't alone in her vision. An organization called the Linus Project exists in many parts of the country. Their blankets include all types besides fleece, but the intent to comfort others is the same. In the meantime, Heartwarmers will continue to be a "win-win" for the volunteers and the "blanketed."

For more information about Heartwarmers, or to donate time, fleece fabric or dollars to purchase additional fleece fabric, call Mary Tomjack at 541-383-8012 or email to send2tj@ykwc.net.