Community Care Blanket Project keeps Monash needy warm
At the height of the COVID pandemic, when lockdowns left many of us staring at the walls in frustration, a small army of volunteers in Monash picked up their needles and wool and started to knit.
The Community Care Blanket Project was a charitable initiative created by Council during those lockdown days. It brought together community volunteers to create handmade blankets and other items, like beanies and scarves, which were distributed to people in need.
Those brightly coloured, woollen items provided warmth and comfort to individuals and families facing challenging circumstances such as homelessness, financial hardship or illness.
But they provided so much more.
The project not only delivered practical support to those in need, but fostered a sense of community spirit and connection that brought people together through a shared goal of helping others.
During the COVID lockdowns, and our extended time trapped at home, volunteers knitted woollen squares en masse that were then stitched and crocheted into beautiful multi-coloured blankets. As of mid-August, they’d produced 414 blankets, 24 baby blankets, 115 beanies (adult, child and infant sizes) and four scarves.
And the project isn’t finished just yet.
Karin Schwarz, Council’s Social Inclusion Supervisor, said there are still enough knitted squares to make 20 more blankets, which are currently being stitched and edged. And when they are, the project will hang up its knitting needles and crochet hooks with 450 blankets wrapped around the shoulders of those in need.
The program has provided 130 blankets to children’s charity Cottage by the Sea in Queenscliff, while 100 blankets and 50 beanies have been donated to both the Homeless and Family Services Monash, and Youth Services from the Church of Christ and Glen Waverley Uniting Church.
Monash Medical Centre, Lions Club, Monash-Oakleigh Community Support and Information Service, the Positive Ageing Activity Centre and Monash-Waverley Community Information and Support have also been able to help clients ward off the winter cold with blankets provided by the project.
And some of our youngest Monash residents have also benefitted, with the Monash Enhanced Maternal and Child Health program, a service that works with some of our less fortunate and more vulnerable families, receiving 16 baby blankets and five beanies - items that have helped provide comfort and warmth to parents, newborns, and toddlers.
Being involved in the project, and helping produce items so much in need, has been a great source of pride for project members.
“Each blanket is individually made with love,” Karin said. “Each one could have had up to 10 different contributors. It was a wonderful project, very heart-warming. I loved sitting, knitting while I was watching TV. What has it cost me (to get involved)? Nothing. Maybe a few dollars for some wool.”
A letter, included with the packaged blanket upon delivery and outlining the origins and aims of the project, concludes: “We hope this blanket made by many hands, and with much love, provides some warmth to you.”
Soaring electricity and gas prices have made the cost of staying warm almost prohibitive for many this winter while the ever-rising cost of living is finding more and more Australians in need of support.
“(The blankets) haven’t just been for those sleeping rough,” Karin said. “We’ve provided blankets to people from established homes who’ve been so appreciative, and they’ve said, ‘this is great, I can turn down the heating and save some money but still stay warm’.”
Beyond the satisfaction of helping those in need, the Community Care Blanket project provided some much-needed glue when our sense of community was shattered by the isolation we experienced during the COVID pandemic. That community benefit also formed part of the letter delivered to recipients with the completed blankets.
“The project not only provides practical support, but also fosters a sense of community spirit and connection,” it said. “By bringing people together, through a shared goal of helping others, we can build a more compassionate and caring society and strengthen community ties.”
Karin said it quickly became obvious that the project was just as important for the people making the blankets as it was for those receiving them.
“Seeing our team members come to the door with wool deliveries,” she said of lockdown isolation. “It was the chance to have a chat at the front door, all masked up and social distanced of course. It was the social connection we hadn’t been having (during the lockdowns).”
Between 70 and 100 volunteers broke the lockdown monotony by knitting squares at various stages during the life of the project, those community members spread over a wide range of ages and demographics.
“Between four and five thousand squares were donated in the end,” Karin said. “Then we farmed them out (to volunteers) for sewing and edging.”
While the blanket project has now run its course, there’s still a large number of programs offered by Council that foster the community spirit, involvement and social inclusion encouraged by the efforts of the knitting volunteers.
“The project is now officially completed,” Karin said. “There’s a lot of craft groups already established, doing this kind of thing. That’s not to say we wouldn’t start a new project if something different came up.”
STILL GOT THE KNITTING BUG?
As part of the 2023 Seniors Festival, we are holding a Knitting and Crochet Workshop for seniors. Join us for an afternoon of social connection while you knit or crochet for charity.
Items can range from blanket squares to baby booties. All items created will then be donated to the charity KOGO (Knit One Give One) to be passed on to disadvantaged and vulnerable community members.
Please bring your own knitting needles and crochet hooks. Wool will be provided. Aimed at adults 60+ years. Basic knowledge of knitting or crochet required.
When: Tuesday 31 October (2pm-4pm)
Where: Oakleigh Library (upstairs auditorium), 148 Drummond Street, Oakleigh
How much: COST FREE
How do I book: www.trybooking.com/CJPCQ or 9518 3970
PALS HELPS YOU SPRING INTO AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE
The Monash Positive Ageing Lifestyles program (PALS) has launched its 2023 Spring edition.
PALS is aimed at promoting healthy, active ageing and social inclusion. The program provides older members of our community with information on social activities and healthy living.
Any older adult who lives, works or visits Monash can participate.
Our Spring edition celebrates the 2023 Monash Seniors Festival, Community Safety Month and Dementia Action Week.
Residents can subscribe to PALS at www.monash.vic.gov.au/pals or by calling our Customer Experience team on 9518 3555.