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Friday, October 13th, 2017

Stitched with love

Otterbein residents sew quilts for foster kids

By Tom Stankard

My Very Own Quilt founder Jessica Rudolph thanks Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choi. . .

ST. MARYS - Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices residents have been using their sewing skills to create 3,000 quilts for children in foster care across the state.
Led by resident Iona Hoffman, more than 30 residents for the past six years have been hard at work, constructing quilts of different sizes and colors as part of the My Very Own Quilt project.
The sewers celebrated their accomplishment on Thursday with coffee and treats.
They got involved when project representative Barbara Baker, daughter of resident Martin Fahncke, asked them to volunteer to help those in need.
"Think of all the little lives you have touched," Baker told the participants. "Hopefully these blankets are providing the comfort that they may need. I know you have put your heart and soul into these blankets. It's a little reminder that someone outside of their disgruntled family might show a little love to them."
Project Founder and CEO Jessica Rudolph of Dublin said she started the project 19 years ago when she was knitting a blanket in her nursery. Her own children at the time were sleeping in their cribs with their blankets.
"I thought, 'Who could I give this to?' I decided I wanted to give this to a child in foster care," Rudolph said. "I've always heard they didn't have very much."
Every night, she continued working on the blanket and eventually gave it to a foster-care child on Christmas. Wanting to give more, she asked her friends and family to make a blanket and the project has grown from there.
About 11,000 kids in Ohio were in foster care a year ago, she said. That number has since grown to 15,000 kids because of the opioid epidemic. Her project so far has made more than 100,000 blankets for kids placed in foster care.
Hoffman has been sewing blankets for local foster children for the past four years.
"It gives you a feeling of satisfaction that you're helping somebody," she said. "My heart goes with every blanket, every single one."   
Every quilt made includes a tag made by prison inmates where kids can write their name.
"In foster care, when they're allowed to write their name, it's a permanent action written in permanent marker," Rudolph said. "It says, 'It's mine.' "
Auglaize County Department of Job and Family Services employee Denise Kantner told the Otterbein residents the foster children love the quilts and told a story of one child who always keeps it close to her.
She said a police department in Auglaize County called child services in 2016 about a 3-year-old girl they found who was looking for her mother and wearing only a T-shirt and underwear.
"We gave that girl a quilt," Kantner said. "She really appreciated the nice, soft blanket that was pink with purple flowers on it. She loves it and still carries it everywhere."
Other children have received blankets and like to snuggle with them, carry them around or keep them on their beds, Kantner said.
Mercer County Job and Family Services Administrator Jason Cupp said the blankets are a sign that someone loves and cares for them after they are coming from a situation in which they were abused or neglected.
"Physically, it can give you warmth," he said. "It can also give you emotional warmth through the love that can warm a child while they're in probably the darkest place they have ever been."
The blankets also give the children a sense of security, he added.
"The children and I thank you. I hope to be here next year when we make 5,000 blankets."
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