Wrapped in Warmth 6

Leigh’s Blankies Provides Comfort to Those in Need

Andra Good realized something while watching a video of an orphanage in Africa. The children had clothes on their back and shoes on their feet, but not a single child had a blankie. Good thought about her children, who take their blankies with them everywhere, providing them a sense of comfort and security. She also thought about the stacks of blankies she had sewn that were sitting on her shelves at home. She was inspired.

Needles and Thread

Good founded Leigh’s Blankies, now a project under the nonprofit organization, Leigh’s Mission. Leigh’s Blankies is a volunteer-driven program that sews soft blankies for children worldwide. The warmth of their efforts is felt by those who are orphaned, in foster care or in need.

At first, Good passed out take-home blankie kits with materials to produce five blankets. The sewers worked their magic and returned the finished product for distribution. While these packets are still available, most volunteers go to Cornerstone, a Chandler church, to help.

“Cornerstone has this amazing program called Second Saturday. People can show up on a Saturday morning and they have a list of projects to volunteer for,” says Good.

They were so well received, Good started a sew group at the church a couple of years ago.

“People are better together. We learn from each other,” says Good.

A Family Affair

Not all volunteers know how to sew. In fact, Andrea Fortenberry learned when she began volunteering. Four generations of her family now help, including her husband, children, mother and grandmother.

“One of our family values is serving others and we wanted to teach that to our kids at an early age,” Fortenberry says. “Usually as a family we cut the fabric and pack the take-home blankie kits. Both kids understand how the stations work so we sometimes have them as runners, delivering fabric or blankies from one station to the next, picking up trash and taking the recycling out to the bin.”

When Fortenberry’s daughter Lila was turning 7, she decided to have a Leigh’s Blankies birthday party. In lieu of a gift, guests were asked to purchase a $20 blankie for themselves. The funding benefited the program. Good came to the party and taught the girls about who they were supporting and helped sew mini blankies as party favors.

Receiving the Blankies

Some of their blankies benefit Project Cure, a program through Cornerstone that sends medical supplies overseas. They also work closely with an orphanage called Huruma Children’s Home in Ngong Hills, Kenya, Africa. The support they offer them has gone well beyond blankies.

Program volunteers were invited by the orphanage to teach sustainable sewing skills. It was such a success that they set up a permanent sewing program. They now have a full-time seamstress to make Huruma’s school uniforms and teach sewing to the students.

Closer to home, they donate blankies to Christian Family Care, an adoption agency. One blankie goes home with the baby and a smaller identical one goes home with the birth mother.

“Our daughters are adopted and all the mementos came home with us,” says Good. “This small blankie can be kept in the birth mother’s purse or at her bedside to help with the grieving process. Placing a child for adoption is a very selfless moment.”

From Healing to Helping

Blankies can be a source of security for adults, too. They wrap them in warmth and can help mend a broken heart. While Leigh’s Blankies only gives to children, sewing them can be cathartic. Good had shelves of blankies in her house way before she founded the program. She taught herself to sew while grieving the loss of her best friend, Leigh Ann Tonkinson. Sewing a blankie seemed simple enough.

“It was so hard when Leigh died and I couldn’t imagine anything good happening from it. It’s kind of scary moving forward,” Good says.

Good sewed because she needed help moving forward. After watching the video about the orphanage in Africa and seeing the children with no blankies, she knew her next step in the healing process involved giving.

“I wasn’t a seamstress or a traveler,” Good says. “Now we are going to Kenya for my seventh time.”

Leigh’s Blankies are available for purchase at Believe Marketplace, a Cornerstone boutique, on Nov. 3-4. Learn more at LeighsMission.com.