It’s a beautiful thing when a good idea snowballs into a great one. In 2009, two girls who needed a project to fulfill the service requirement in preparation for the sacrament of Confirmation agreed to make and donate fleece blankets to hospitalized patients at Loyola University Medical Center. Inspired by the passage from Matthew’s Gospel, “When I was ill, you comforted me,” the idea had been germinated among the hospital’s pastoral care staff, who saw an opportunity to fulfill Loyola’s promise to “treat the human spirit” for patients and families in difficult situations.
The blanket-making program continues to grow and now has the name Comfort Care Project. Joanne Kusy, secretary in the pastoral care office, has been an enthusiastic blanket maker since the beginning, having made more than 750 herself. The blankets, she believes, provide that “something extra” to show patients how much the Loyola staff cares for them. And the crafting process helps keep her connected to them. “I always buy uplifting, happy, bright fabrics,” she said, “and when I make blankets it calms me.”
Other Loyola staff members have become dedicated Comfort Care Project volunteers, including nurses from several units as well as staff from the hospital’s clinical lab, who produced 165 blankets in 2010 by cutting and knotting over the lunch hour. And chaplains have found that there’s blanket-making interest among patients who are hospitalized for extended stays, such as women with high-risk pregnancies who are on total bed rest.
Personal responses and heartfelt notes are clear signs that patients are deeply moved by the gesture of receiving a blanket. Recipients often are surprised to hear that the blanket is not just a blanket, either. As they’re cut and knotted, many of the volunteers who make them pray quietly for the patients who will receive them. These blanket crafters include congregants of St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Elmhurst, the sisters of the Wheaton Franciscan order, Girl Scout troops, and students from area Catholic high schools. And the prayers can go the other way too. A recent widow hospitalized after a car accident told chaplain Fran Glowinski, OSF, “I pray my rosary on the knots, but there are only 48…”
Loyola’s 10 full-time chaplains, who staff the hospital 24/7, see patients in some of the most challenging and stressful health situations imaginable. Chaplain Robert Andorka values the chance to give patients a blanket at these times because it is one of the ways that he and his colleagues can be “the eyes and the hands and the voice of God” with people in search of healing. The Comfort Care Project would like to expand the number of blankets available for distribution, and the team eagerly welcomes volunteers and donations to support the project. In the meantime, Ms. Kusy will be among its most ardent supporters: “I will do this until the project ends, and I hope it never does,” she said.
If you would like to make a gift for the purchase of blanket-making materials or volunteer your time to make blankets, please contact Eva Moss at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (708) 216-8249