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Wrapping children in comfort

July 04, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

SMITHSBURG - When Susan Franceschina's daughter was sick with meningitis at the age of 3 weeks, she remembers getting a pretty little blanket for her daughter while she was hospitalized.

Kathryn is now 10 months old - happy and healthy, Franceschina said. And while she might not remember the blanket, her mother does.

"I investigated online when I got home and learned it came from Project Linus," Franceschina said.

She discovered Project Linus is a national nonprofit organization with 400 chapters.

Before she got involved with Project Linus, Franceschina and a group called Washington County Moms made a few blankets and took them to Washington County Hospital.

"Another mom, Megan Larrimore, actually started the Project Linus chapter here in March. I am her chapter assistant," Franceschina said.

The local chapter meets on the first Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. So far, the group has met twice at Trinity Lutheran Church in Smithsburg, where Franceschina is the part-time youth ministry activities coordinator.

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A number of the 15 charter members are Trinity members, although the organization isn't connected to the church.

New and handmade blankets are created, then gathered and distributed. They can be knitted, crocheted, quilted or fleece.

"All skill levels are welcome," she said.

The group's efforts have attracted a good deal of attention. Recently Smithsburg Historical Society members invited community residents to help tie baby quilts.

Those who participated were Nancy Brown, Lorraine Geiser, Helen Reynolds and Betty Eichelberger.

Sari Slick Kilheffer, society secretary, said 18 quilts were completed and taken over to the June 7 meeting of the Project Linus chapter.

She said she has learned that Project Linus is a volunteer nonprofit organization with the mission of providing love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need through the gifts of new handmade blankets.

Since March, the Washington County chapter of Project Linus has distributed more than 130 blankets to local organizations that serve babies and children.

There is a Project Linus drop-off box at Joann's Fabrics in the South End Shopping Center. Franceschina said someone stops by once a week.

The group will hold a fundraiser on Saturday, July 21, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the church, Franceschina said.

"It will be a charity crop, which is a scrapbooking event," she said.

Anyone wishing to attend and scrapbook can pay $20 to be at a table and have access to scrapbooking supplies. Elaine Persons is chairwoman of the event.

Franceschina, 24, and her husband, David, a Middletown, Md., teacher, live in Hagerstown. In addition to Kathryn, they also have a daughter, Abigail, 2 1/2,

A Sharpsburg native, Franceschina graduated from Shepherd University with a degree in psychology.

The national Web site for Project Linus is www.projectlinus.org. The local group's e-mail address is WashingtonCountyLinus@gmail.com.

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