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Jane Furuseth: Behind the scenes with RSVP volunteers

RSVP volunteer Dianne Gerhardson loves to help people and she loves to sew. In December, 2009 when Sanford Volunteer Services Coordinator, Kari Knudson, put out the word that she was looking for a volunteer to sew some fleece blankets, Gerhardson was quick to respond. Gerhardson has since completed,ore than 1,000 blankets.

A group of women from the Blackduck Presbyterian Church heard about the blanket project and indicated they were interested in helping. Gerhardson immediately enlisted their help and now goes to Blackduck once a week to sew with the women at the church.

The fleece blankets are actually weighted therapy blankets for children with autism, aspergers or ADHD. Sanford’s Peak Performance uses the blankets for pediatric therapy and saves about $100 per blanket by having them sewn locally. Sanford supplies all the material, thread, and popcorn — for weight, to Gerhardson, plus a regular cleaning of her sewing machine. Gerhardson says she logged 4,000 hours on each of her two sewing machines and is ready for a new machine.

Jessica Pearce-Goodwin, Occupational Therapist Assistant at Peak Performance, says Gerhardson is an angel. The families Jessica has worked with are thrilled with the blankets and often send Gerhardson a thank you card or small gift of appreciation.

Each lap-sized blanket takes about 5 hours to sew and fill with unpopped popcorn to a weight of 3 or 5 pounds. The larger weighted blankets take about 10 hours to complete and can weigh 6, 8 or 10 pounds.

For more information about volunteer opportunities, contact Jane Furuseth, Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) Area Coordinator at 218-766-9494. The RSVP office is located at the Bemidji Community Food Shelf, 1260 Industrial Park Dr., Bemidji.

JANE FURUSETH is the RSVP/America Reads Area Coordinator.