BANGOR – They gather on the third Friday of each month in the hall of St. John Church in Bangor to cut, iron, sew, and of course, chat.

“Around 20 different women come at different times,” said Janet Weber. “It’s been a nice community builder.”

But the Project Linus group at St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor means so much more. With every interlocking swoop, the “blanketeers” are getting closer to helping a child going through a tough time. Project Linus is a national nonprofit that creates blankets locally and distributes them to children in hospitals, shelters, social service agencies, or anywhere that a child might be in need of a big hug.

“Our goal is to be an instrument of comfort, hoping to ease any distress that a child may be experiencing by sending our love to them in a hug, in the form of a blanket to wrap up in,” said Weber, who oversees the St. Paul the Apostle chapter.

The idea to start a group at the Bangor church began in the early stages of the pandemic, when Weber wasn’t able to see her grandchildren.

“I made what I referred to as ‘hug’ blankets because I could not be there in person to hug my kiddos,” she said. “When I told my sister that I had made blankets for the kids, she said ‘I want a hug, too!’ Then, I began a massive outreach to my entire family scattered across the country and I added to my already overstocked fabric stash.”

Weber realized she had a great deal of fabric and squares left over and had heard of Project Linus. She connected with Cynthia Vaughan who, in addition to serving as the Project Linus coordinator for Penobscot, Piscataquis, and Hancock counties, also used to work at All Saints Catholic School in Bangor when Weber taught there.

“I met up with her and decided making blankets would be a great way to use up all the fabric I had accumulated,” said Weber. “I told a friend, Cheryl Whalen, about Project Linus and she thought it would be a way for parishioners to be of service to the community. Monsignor Andrew Dubois, the pastor of St. Paul the Apostle, readily approved the plan.”

“The contributions can be either quilts or afghans, and they go to children who are in difficult situations from birth to 18 years of age,” said Vaughan, who often joins the new group at St. Paul the Apostle to work and then distributes the blankets to area agencies and hospitals. “It’s a tremendous group.”

From the very first meeting in January, the participants in Project Linus at St. Paul the Apostle formed a tight community, sharing smiles, laughs, and stitches. Donations quickly came in the form of sewing machines, irons, ironing boards, and fabric.

“One month we made flannel blankets, one month we made scrappy quilt tops from the scraps from cutting out previous projects, and sometimes we work with donated fabric from members of the community,” said Weber.

And any level of ability is welcome. The only requirements are a positive attitude and the desire to make new friends.

“We have all levels of experience, and we are learning from each other,” said Weber. “There are experienced quilters and seamstresses, as well as hesitant or out of practice ‘would-be’ ones. Not only do we share sewing tips, we share ideas as well. My 10-year-old granddaughter has attended twice!”

Providing tangible and spiritual warmth and comfort to children is plenty of motivation, but Project Linus has brought so much more to group members. 

“I see its value not only in providing blankets to children in need, but also in building community,” said Weber. “New people contact me and join each month, and the core continues to come. I am expecting three new members to come in August. We enjoy sewing in the community and hope that the children who receive the blankets know that we sewed them with much love.”

For more information about Project Linus or to discover ways in which you can help, call the parish at 207-217-6740.