Blanketing kids with care


The holiday season is about to become a little more toasty for kids in Neighborhood Youth Services. For the past month, NYS has been collecting and creating 80 new fleece tie blankets to give to each of their students at the annual holiday party on Dec. 22.

“Princess Kisob, our program director came up with the idea for the tie Blanket Extravaganza because blankets are pretty essential, especially in communities with broader unmet needs,” said Nahom Abegaze, program coordinator at NYS.

NYS is a community program started in 1992 by Woodland Hills, a juvenile justice and mental health service in Duluth. The purpose of Neighborhood Youth Services is to engage diverse youth by offering hope, a sense of belonging, and opportunities to reach their full potential. The afterschool program in the Washington Community Center, 310 N. First Ave. W., serves youth ages 6-18 from Central Hillside and surrounding neighborhoods.

Fleece blankets for the extravaganza were donated by staff and board members, individuals and community groups. Community member volunteers were invited to work side by side with youth in the program to help put together the blankets.

Some of the blanket crafters had no experience with tie blankets, but lots of experience with fabric.

“I’ve never made a blanket like this, but I’ve done a lot of sewing and quilting, so it’s pretty easy to catch on,” said volunteer Jan Magree.

Tie blankets are made with two pieces of usually complementary colored fleece. Edges were cut off to make the pieces of fleece even on all sides. Then corners were cut out, and roughly 1-inch strips were cut along each side. The strips are double-knotted to ensure the blankets don’t come apart.

“It’s a nice blanket because it’s big enough to fold in half, it’s double thickness so it’s extra warm, and it’s not wool so there are no allergies,” Magree said.

Magree heard about the project from a friend who works at Woodland Hills and she decided to spend a few hours helping out.

“I’m a retired person with a little bit of time on my hands, so I was looking for things to do in the spirit of the season,” Magree said.

One of the students volunteering last Tuesday was Denfeld sophomore Arnay Spears.

“This is the fourth blanket I’ve done today. It’s really easy,” Spears said. “It’s a sweet thing because not everyone is as privileged as other people so they might not have covers.”

Spears had never made a tie blanket before, but she said she was glad to learn.

“It’s cool because now if I want to do it on my own time, I know how to do it,” Spears said.

Spears has been in NYS since third grade. Her favorite part of the program is hanging out with her friends and getting help with her math homework.

The youth will receive their tie blankets along with a gift bag put together by members of the NYS board of directors. Abegaze said two members of the board have been especially active this year, gathering items and putting together decorated bags for each youth in the program.

“It’s like Santa’s workshop back here, with all these bags,” Abegaze said. “We really appreciate this because the time and energy put into this project shows the kids that they’re worth something. That people care about them.”