BEMIDJI -- After restarting a local charity organization, RaeLynn Hastings had barely put out the word that she was looking for homemade blankets before the first large donation came in.

Hastings recently began the local chapter of Project Linus. The national program aims to get blankets into the hands of children in need, such as those experiencing trauma.

“Project Linus is based on the Snoopy/Charlie Brown character, Linus, with the blanket; that’s how it was initiated,” Hastings said.

As it turned out, Hastings was starting the chapter right around the same time students from Voyageurs Expeditionary School were looking for a community service project to take part in. And so, more than 30 students banded together to create roughly 60 blankets for the local chapter to distribute.

It isn’t the first time Project Linus has had a presence in the Bemidji area. However, by the time Hastings looked into the organization, the local chapter no longer existed. So, Hastings decided to start it back up.

Voyageurs students have to log a number of volunteer hours during the year. Katie Boell, who teaches middle school math at Voyageurs, said the school had donated to the organization a number of years ago. They decided to look into the possibility of donating to it again and found that the new chapter had just recently restarted a couple weeks before.

Hastings said the blankets from Voyageurs would go to a women’s shelter.

Voyageurs Expeditionary School students hold up blankets that will be donated to Project Linus. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
Voyageurs Expeditionary School students hold up blankets that will be donated to Project Linus. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

According to the organization’s website, there are six Project Linus chapters in Minnesota, including the one that Hastings just started.

Currently the local drop-off locations in Bemidji include Affinity Plus on Hannah Avenue and Sadie Rae's Quilt Shop downtown. Hastings said that if anyone wants to initiate additional drop-off locations, they can contact her at (218) 368-6963.

Hastings said they look for a variety of blanket sizes since they go to children who are infants all the way up through high school.

“At a time of need and stress and sadness, it’s the little things (that matter),” Hastings said about giving blankets to children experiencing difficult circumstances.

In addition to the blankets themselves, Hastings said people also can donate either funding or blanket materials to the organization. The blankets need to be new, homemade quilts, afghans or fleece blankets.

Hastings will be accepting blankets from a large swath of the northern part of the state. The Project Linus website says the local chapter covers the counties of Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Polk and Red Lake.

Hastings said she will go as far north as International Falls, east to Grand Rapids, and west to Thief River Falls. She clarified, though, that those are not necessarily strict boundaries.

“If people need them elsewhere, I’ll do that,” Hastings said. “We get them to wherever they need to go.”