A simple blanket can make a world of difference.
It did for Sharon Tilton, and the blankets she crochets touch the lives of people she will never meet.
Tilton is a volunteer "blanketeer" for Project Linus, an organization that distributes handmade blankets to children who are sick, traumatized or otherwise in need.
Tilton shows an example of a blanket for Project Linus.
The organization struck a chord with Tilton because of a gift she once received.
"One of my sons was born prematurely," Tilton said. "He was in the hospital for five and half months before he ever got to come home. Going home without your baby is not easy. But I was given a beautiful cream-colored blanket that a woman had crocheted and just having that baby blanket at least I had something to hold on to. So it was more of a comfort for me."
Since its inception in 1995, Project Linus has distributed more than three million blankets to children. Project Linus was started by a Colorado woman who made a blanket for her own sick child and though it might be neat to make them for other children. Now there are hundreds of chapters, Tilton said. The blankets are for children who need comfort because of trauma, injuries, illness or being removed from their homes by the Department of Human Services, as examples.
About Sharon Tilton
After graduation from St. Edmond High School, Sharon Tilton, 54, moved to Des Moines where she married and began to raise a family. When the children grew older she got a job.
"I got a job there with the Catholic schools as a school librarian. I absolutely loved it." After 12 years she was laid off because of budget cuts. It was a dream job for me because I always liked to read," she said. "The other thing I like to do is organize. I put things in order."
When she lost her job, and going through a divorce from a 28 year marriage, Tilton decided to move to Salt Lake City. She began working for a sanitary supply company, and married her former high school sweetheart, Mike Tilton. He worked 32 years in telecommunications before retiring. Sharon Tilton missed her family and the couple decided to move back to Fort Dodge last year. They now live in her childhood home. "We are glad to be back full circle. It feels full circle to me because this is our roots," she said.
What: Fort Dodge Civitan Club
When: meetings 7 a.m. Wednesdays
Where: Zakeer's Restaurant 425 Second Ave. S.
Project Linus mission statement: "First it is our mission to provide love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer blanketeers. Second, it is our mission to provide a rewarding and fun service opportunity for interested individuals and groups in local communities for the benefit of children."
Fore more information on the Fort Dodge Civitans or Project Linus contact Sharon Tilton at email@example.com or 515-573-4377.
"When a kid gets removed from a meth house they are stripped naked and wrapped in a sheet, and removed from the house. These blankets then can be used wrap the kid instead of a cold white sheet. It can be a cute blankie type of thing," Tilton said.
Tilton loves crocheting and got heavily involved in Project Linus when she lived in Salt Lake City.
"I organized a blanket day at work. Every employee got to spend an hour of paid time in our training room making blankets. We had this whole day where we made blankets and we made over 300 blankets in one day," she said.
"Moms who have a still birth, or a child who dies in the intensive care unit, the nurse can wrap the baby in a baby blanket, so the mom can hold the child, and then she can keep the blanket," Tilton said. "I'm going to keep making blankets no matter what, even if I have to send them back to Utah." She would like to start a local chapter. The closest one is in Ames.
Locally, Tilton is passionate about the Civitans organization.
A main focus of Civitans is helping people with disabilities. Both Sharon and her husband Mike each have a child who participates in the Special Olympics, an event Civitan International strongly supports. The couple sees their involvement in the organization as "helping someone else because someone helped our kids."
They learned of Civitans after moving back to Fort Dodge and knew they wanted to get involved. The Fort Dodge group holds events for people with disabilities and have numerous fundraisers as well.
April is Civitan Awareness Month as proclaimed by Civitan International. "We will be helping with the Special Olympics in April," Tilton said.
Some people experience the best a community has to offer when they themselves are faced with difficult or traumatic situations. Often times, those same people turn around and volunteer to do the same for others.
Tilton said her father, Leonard Hill, was a very giving person. He even offered his keys to a total stranger once whose truck had broken down. "If all you do is take away from your community, and you never give back to your community, it's not going to be a very enjoyable community for very long," she said.