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Local Catholic Daughters of the Americas group warms others with flannel blankets

GLEN ELLYN, Ill. (Catholic Expolorer) - Nothing warms the heart during the cold winter months like a good deed. Take a good deed and throw in a nice fleece blanket and every chill can be warmed away.

A handful of the 82 members of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas of St. Petronille Court in Glen Ellyn have warmed the hearts and bodies of 100 residents of Serenity House by donating homemade blankets. Serenity House is a comprehensive treatment center in DuPage County that serves men and women recovering from chemical dependence and substance abuse.

The 100 colorful blankets were on display during the Dec. 10 meeting of the Catholic Daughters and then were presented to representatives of Serenity House.

About 20 members of the club met following 8 a.m. Mass every Wednesday throughout the year to measure, cut and tie the fleece blankets, while they shared stories and prayed for the unknown recipients of the blankets. Each blanket began with the purchase of two large pieces of flannel. Strips were then cut around the edges of the two fleece pieces and the pieces were tied together. A scapular, many of which were blessed by Bishop J. Peter Sartain, was secured inside every blanket with the last knot. Father John Sullivan, chaplain of the court, also blessed the 100 blankets prior to them being presented to a representative from Serenity House earlier this month.

Halfway house for the addicted is the beneficiary

The women from the group began making the blankets several months ago following a suggestion by Denise Kilker, a court member and director of Christian service at the parish. Kilker said the women were looking for a project that would benefit others when she came up with the idea for creating blankets for Serenity House clients.

“Our parish has always had a relationship with Serenity House because of Henry Tews,” said Kilker. “All 100 residents have been adopted by parishioners and in return the residents write us some of the most beautiful, touching letters.”

Tews, a parishioner at St. Petronille, founded the house in 1985 to assist people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. It originally housed four men and now serves 100 men and women in homes scattered around Addison and one in Naperville, according to Gert MacPhail, one of the Catholic Daughters who worked on the blankets.

“When approximately 60 blankets had been finished, a letter was sent to the membership asking for donations to continue the project. The letter generated about $700 from the court,” MacPhail said. “With this boost in supplies, the project could continue to its goal of 100 blankets.

The residents usually stay for at least three months, which means each resident could have their own blanket and take it home with them when they left.”

Serenity House also finds employment and teaches daily living skills to its residents in addition to working to reunite residents and their families, according to Lisa Snipes, director of development at the house, in a telephone conversation with the Explorer.

“We don’t have any famous people here,” Snipes said. “Many of the men and women here are asked to leave their residences so they are homeless. The people we treat are individuals who need us the most but can afford us the least. They are good people with a bad problem.

“The clients are so thrilled with the blankets. We placed them on their beds so they found them when they came home,” Snipes explained of how the blankets were distributed. “The blankets mean comfort of home for the clients. It also reminds them of the women who spent hours and hours and hours with countless prayers (for them) that will make them feel loved. The fact that someone who does not know them took the time (to make something for them) and thought of them is such a blessing. The blankets will make a difference in the lives of all the people.”

Each of the 100 blankets was unique in its fabric design and Snipes said the counselors, who know each of the clients personally, chose which blanket would go to which resident.

“Some of the blankets are cute, some are whimsical, some are manly,” she explained. “Each counselor went through the blankets and said, ‘Carol loves kittens, so she can have the kitten blanket’ or ‘John is a Sox fan, so he should have the Sox blanket.’ ”

’It was like an assembly line’

Although it wasn’t easy finding 100 different patterns of flannel material, the members had fun trying.

“We wanted each of the blankets to be different,” said Lou Stuffelbeam, a parishioner of St. Petronille for 47 years who worked on the blankets. “At first we were making about one a week and when the number went up more people came to help and we started making three or four a week. It was like an assembly line.”

Karen Cunningham was another of the women who showed up every week to work the “assembly line.”

“It was a good project and we had Gert cracking her whip to get us to make them,” Cunningham said laughing. “But it was nice because we got the chance to chitchat, share stories about our lives and get to know each other a little better.”

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This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of the Catholic Explorer(www.catholicexplorer.com), official newspaper of the Diocese of Joliet, Ill.

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