For some members of First Christian Church, Saturday has come to represent a very important day — one in which they not only get to discover fellowship, but also engage in something to help children.
The Blanket Crew of First Christian Church, 306 N. Seventh St., has been making blankets for foster children for two years now. The church, which has a congregation of between 100 and 115, recently completed a consignment of 36 blankets, 30 scarves and 30 hats for foster children in southwest Kansas.
The Blanket Crew has a core membership of 10, but the members acknowledge the fruits of their work are the result of the whole church. The whole church is part of the crew, according to a founder of the group, as donations are collected from the congregation from the end of October to the first of November to make the blankets.
“It was something I had done in a different group, but they stopped doing it,” MaNon Evans, who introduced the idea, said. “I brought it up at church, and everybody was receptive of the idea. It is open to anybody to join up.”
For Scott Schurle, senior pastor at the church, the Blanket Crew represents something more personal than the average church member. He was a foster child, and he sees parallels in the experiences of children who receive the blankets, even if he never gets to meet them.
“I do know how much it means to have something that you can call your own, when as a foster child, you have lost so much,” Schurle said. “Even if it is something as simple as a blanket, the power of that is immeasurable. We are giving them something they can hold on to. Tangible. Material. Touchable.”
Schurle explained that the Blanket Crew falls in line with the idea of five-fingered faith, where members are encouraged to commit to following the early church’s example of time spent in studying scripture, time spent in worship together, time spent alone in prayer, time spent with other believers building the faith, and time spent in service to others.
“We had heard that DCF had put a call out asking for blankets for their foster care kids; something that the kids could take with them as a source of comfort,” Schurle said, describing the genesis of the crew.
Members agreed that making the blankets would be easy and worthwhile, so the challenge was taken on.
The blankets go to the Department of Children and Families (DCF), which then takes them to foster children.
“The idea is to make sure that the kids that go to foster homes always have a blanket of their own,” Evans explained, adding she already has collected this year’s batch, and they are ready to be delivered before Christmas.
On a normal Saturday morning, the work begins at about 10 a.m. Two groups are formed, one to cut and mark the blankets so they are ready to tie and the second to tie the blankets together. The two crews work simultaneously. When finished, a quick quality check ensures nothing has been missed. After that, a label saying, “from your friends at First Christian Church,” is attached, and the whole pile is ready to be sent to the agency.
Last year, the crew gave 28 blankets to DCF, though they didn’t have any hats or scarves. This year, they have 36 blankets along with hats and scarves.
Members of the crew include many who have day jobs and a few who stay home. For many, Saturday is the only time they have time to be at the church for the activity, although, for a few, like Evans and Carolyn Davis, the work goes on, even when they are home.
Davis, a former administrator at the Finney County Health Department, said she makes scarves and hats even when the formal season for the making of the blankets ends. She is driven because of her experience with foster children in her former job.
“I came in contact with many such children, and I know the need is great,” Davis said. “I know the turmoil that they go through when they are removed from their homes. Unfortunately, when they are removed, they often leave with only the clothes on their back.”
According to Davis, she witnessed cases where children were taken away from homes with just eyeglasses.
“Because of their circumstances, they have little of anything of their own,” Davis said, adding that through the blanket ministry, the children have something that symbolizes warmth and normalcy.
“I have been a member of First Christian Church since World War II,” Davis said, laughing. “I passed my 83rd birthday last month. This is something I can help with. A lot of the projects at the church take physical strength, but this can be done easily.”
Davis added that making scarves at her home for the cause provides an outlet for her as far as contributing to the community.
The ministry is conducted once a year around the Christmas season. Schurle said the aim is for kids not only to get blankets at Christmas, but also so they have something warm for the cooler part of the year.
Schurle said one of the added benefits has been the fellowship that has developed among the members of the congregation.
“While people have been committed to the project, they have learned more about each other and have developed a relationship that frankly wasn’t there before,” he said.
As the Christmas season draws near, the Blanket Crew and the congregation at First Christian Church will be wishing that some children, though they might not be with their real families, will feel the warmth of the season, courtesy of a blanket made by a labor of love.