Monday, February 17th, 2014
By Margie Wuebker
Stitched together with love
Otterbein residents have made more than 1,000 blankets
  ST. MARYS - Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices residents are making blankets for children in foster care programs around the state.
Led by project coordinator Marge Steinecker, the residents have completed more than 1,000 blankets in a variety of sizes and colors as part of the My Very Own Blanket project.
Barbara Baker, a representative of the Columbus-based project and daughter of Otterbein resident Martin Fahncke, talked to prospective volunteers in 2011 about making blankets.
"She told us that here in Ohio, there are 10,000 to 12,000 youngsters - ranging from infants to teenagers - in foster care," Steinecker said. "Each one receives a blanket of their very own when they come into the program."
Steinecker and a handful of volunteers offered to spend free time working on blankets. Volunteer numbers continue to grow with Iona Hoffman joining the ranks four weeks ago.
"I am totally hooked," she said while looking through a stack of recently completed blanket squares. "I have the time, and doing this gives me a real purpose in life."
Baker brings boxes of donated fabric once a month or so. Volunteers carefully press the material removing wrinkles. Quilt batting, yarn, thread and even needles also come in as donations.
Fahncke, a 95-year-old who once made his home in Celina, can deftly turn out one fabric square after another with the aid of a thick plastic pattern and a trusty rotary cutter.
"I've cut 15,000 squares in a little over a year," he said with a smile. "I could be out in the woodworking shop using power tools, but it's warmer here in the winter and the company is pretty good. The girls really like to talk, and I have a good time with them."
Fahncke comes two or three afternoons a week, keeping "the girls" well supplied with neatly cut squares. The camaraderie and the sense of accomplishment far outweigh any enjoyment derived from TV programs, he added with a smile.
Steinecker, a gifted artist who leads classes for interested residents, uses her penchant for coordinating colors in pleasing designs - eight rows square for larger blankets or smaller five-by-six ones.
"I sometimes lose track of time working at the sewing machine," she said. "I often wonder about the children who will receive these blankets."
Evelyn Clear, the oldest volunteer at 101, will take squares back to her quarters and stitch them together using a portable machine that's becoming more temperamental with age. She also uses her spare time to knit scarves, hats and prayer shawls, pointing out God has blessed her with good health, and working for others is a way of giving back.
Steinecker and fellow volunteer Dixie Moore, a former kindergarten teacher, will sandwich puffy white batting between the patterned blanket tops and the coordinated backs.
Once the binding has been secured, Clear and other helpers patiently knot each blanket to make sure it does not come apart. Adding labels is the last step.
"The labels carry the name of the organization as well as a blank where a social worker or police officer writes the name of the recipient going into foster care," Moore said. "I heard one woman still has the blanket she received years ago as a child."
Children entering foster care have few belongings, according to Steinecker, who vows to continue making blankets for as long as she can.
"Those children don't have much but they do have a blanket for comfort," she added. "Each stitch is made with love and prayers for better days ahead."
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