News article from Grainewspublished January 30, 2006, Used with permission.

Volunteers Spreading Warmth By Jean Fahlman

Fahlman_BlanketThe gift of a handmade afghan is a gift from the heart and hands, spreading warmth and a feeling of self-worth to the recipients. Donna Loos of Weyburn, Saskatchewan and her volunteer knitters and wool donors, demonstrate warmth and caring by their work with Blankets for Canada.

Loos is the facilitator of the Weyburn chapter of Blankets for Canada. This is more than a random act of kindness for her, it is a vocation. She read an article about the program in the “Regina Leader Post” and contacted the Regina facilitator, then worked through her before opening the Weyburn chapter in 1998. Her sister, Lillian Wudrick, has a chapter in Birch Hills and the 2 sisters have organized and distributed more than 700 warm afghans to people who need them.

Loos delivers or mails afghans to various places but she says her main one is to a violence intervention center. They also make baby afghans for the women who come to the shelter with children. The afghans also go to senior care centers, safe houses, palliative care units, hospitals, fire victims, mental health centers and Family Place in Weyburn.

Mustard Seed in Edmonton, a shelter for homeless men, is the only out-of-province facility that Loos delivers afghans to. Sometimes she gives an afghan to an individual she learns of because, she says, “We have homeless people here too, unfortunately.”

Blankets for Canada is a national organization with chapters across Canada. The facilitators, like Loos, send monthly reports of hours spent and afghans distributed, so there’s good documentation of the program.

In Weyburn, Loos has about 10 volunteers who knit or crochet, a quilter, and many other people who donate wool. Three of the knitters are visually impaired and a fourth had to quit recently due to her failed eyesight.

“I couldn’t do any of this without these workers. They make it possible. They thank me for giving them the wool and something useful to do with their time and that makes me feel humble. I should be thanking them. It breaks my heart when I run out of donated wool to give them so usually I go out and buy some. I like to crochet so I always have something on the go,” Loos says, pointing to an afghan in progress.

The volunteers knit or crochet the squares and she picks them up and sews them together. Loos also delivers and mails the completed afghans at her own cost. She has hopes some bus or trucking company might offer to deliver packages for her but so far that has not happened.

Because the wool is donated the afghans are made of many colors, so the volunteers try to co-ordinate them to make attractive combinations. “I tell people, every blanket is an original,” Loos jokes.

This project involves people from many places. Women from Esterhazy donate garbage bags of afghan squares. Ladies from Maple Creek, Kelvington and Redvers are faithful donors of wool. The Weyburn Co-op lets Loos put out a box in the store where people can leave wool. Recently, 7 boxes of Fortrel was donated so one of the volunteers is making quilt tops which they will tie this winter. Loos has quilting frames.

Blankets for Canada is a year-round project and the need is always there. In Weyburn, the need is fairly stable so they send afghans to other places where they are needed.

“I don’t know what I did before I started this. I enjoy it and as long as people keep giving me wool, I will keep working at it.” Loos took up this work around the time she retired from Souris Valley Extended Care Hospital. She still does some work with Eden Homes.

Blankets for Canada is not her only volunteer project. She belongs to and works for Violence Intervention, for the Catholic Women’s League, the Rebekahs, and she is a willing canvasser for many organizations during fund drives. Where she is needed, she is willing to help.

Her volunteer work has not gone unnoticed. In 2004, she was nominated for the Weyburn Quota Club Women of Distinction Award, and also for the Regina Women of Distinction volunteer category.

Loos and her husband, Roy, who is retired from a railroad career, have 4 grown children.

Jean Fahlman writes from Weyburn, Saskatchewan.