“In 30 years or so, I’ve never had a reaction to such a robust project,” said Pat LaMarche of the Homeless Memorial Blanket Project.
Knitters and crocheters from around 10 states are providing hand-knitted and crocheted blankets for display at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Carlisle as dusk falls on December 21st in memory of those who died while being homeless.
“It’s the night we remember because if you live on the street, you will likely die on the street,” said LaMarche.
It’s a tough life. Homeless people often die 30 years ahead of their time, LaMarche said.
About 250 blankets zipped together will be a visual reminder of the homelessness. On the project’s Facebook page, artists collaborate, announce yarn sales and display their creations. Some include twin and queen size blankets with intricate, delicate lace patterns. Others have colorful granny squares and still others have cuticle texture.
“This [knitting and crocheting] is a language of love, ”said LaMarche, whose great-aunt Martha taught her to crochet when she was 7 years old. “And that seems to have become of this massive ceiling.”
A particularly beautiful piece is a jewel-colored ceiling with 18 colored circles. The circles contain beautiful, coordinated, pointed flowers. For the creator JP Shaw, the love for crocheting harmonizes with the production of this blanket.
“It fits together perfectly, because that’s my hobby, I do it in my free time instead of scrolling through Facebook,” she says. “I do something beautiful that someone can appreciate.”
It replaces a lot of scrolling as each circle takes a couple of hours.
Amy Neurohr crocheted three blankets for the project.
“When you make an Afghan for someone, it’s a personal gift,” she said. “It’s not like you went out and bought a blanket at Walmart. It’s much more personal. “
New pipe strives to collect knitted and crocheted squares from people and sew them together to make a cover. She has created a brightly colored blanket that she hopes will bring joy to a child.
A child is not the stereotypical person without a shelter, but Pennsylvania public school statistics 2018-19 show that approximately 31,822 students in the Commonwealth are homeless during the year.
“I have a vision of a child who is going to have it,” she said. “I’m just very happy with the bright colors and, you know, I can wrap myself in them.”
Ways to help
This event will shed light on the homelessness crisis as well as organizations providing services to people without shelter on the darkest night of the year.
Local agencies will be in the church to let people know what they can do to support the work to end homelessness. An area of the church property will hold a tent camp to give people a glimpse into the lives of the people who are not housed. Kings Gap General Store will sell its famous cheese soup and other varieties, and Project SHARE and Gilded Door Pantry will sell bread products.
“Wow, hot soup on the street in the cold, staring at this ceiling that will [be there until] The next morning, when we take the blanket apart, we actually go to someone who is cold and in need, ”said LaMarche. “You know, it’s really moving to stand here and witness.”
She pointed out that Christmas time is the perfect time to open up to the suffering of others.
“Dec 21 is right in the heart of a time when people say to their children and grandchildren, ‘You have to learn more,’ ”said LaMarche.
The Homeless Memorial Blanket Project, sponsored by the Charles Bruce Foundation, provides not only that opportunity, but also an opportunity for action.
Those facing challenges of their own look for ways to help. LaMarche told the story of an elderly woman who lived in a long-term care facility who wanted to join the project but couldn’t get out to buy yarn. LaMarche told the “yarn community” and, phew, there was yarn.
“The woman who gave up the yarn, her husband died last year,” said LaMarche. “So she brought her husband’s favorite color with her to the other woman she doesn’t know.”
So far, the senior knitter has made four blankets. Another senior citizen, Neurohr’s mother, who prefers to make hats than blankets, crochets hats with the aim of having one for every blanket. They nicknamed her “Mad Hatter”.
In the end, local agencies receive the blankets to distribute to the people they care for.
“This is also a really big opportunity for people to put a lot of love into this project,” said LaMarche.
That love comes in the form of buying yarn, making it available to others, and using a hobby to bring literal and figurative warmth to people who certainly could use it. It also allows the community to enjoy the art they create and to gather together to learn about homelessness, all as part of acknowledging those who lost their lives while unhodged.
“It’s cool to think that these blankets are going to be important to someone,” said LaMarche.
The homeless commemorative blanket will be on display at dusk on December 21 at the First Evangelical Lutheran Church, 21 S. Bedford St., Carlisle. To learn more about the project or to make a crocheted or knitted blanket, visit the project’s Facebook page or contact Pat LaMarche at email@example.com.
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