By Rev. Laurie McHugh
Pastor, Windsor UMC
Camp Noah is a nationally acclaimed, 20-year-old preparedness and resiliency program for children, hosted across the U.S. in communities that have been impacted by disaster and trauma – and it is coming to Redding, Chico, and Santa Rosa this summer, thanks to a partnership involving Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and United Methodist congregations around Northern California.
Engaging the story of Noah and the Ark, children at the one-week day camp will process their own "storm story," as well as finding empowering ways to prepare for the next time a disaster strikes. In this safe and supportive setting, children are encouraged to face their fears, grieve their losses, and identify and share their unique gifts and talents. A local mental health professional will be available for any child who needs special attention during the camp.
Camp Noah is free to participants. Children will receive two meals and snacks a day, as well as all the materials they will need – including a hand-tied fleece blanket that will serve as a comfort object and a way to mark out “personal space.” Making these blankets is a way those who cannot volunteer to serve for a week of camp can personally connect with a child.
Windsor Community United Methodist Church (which sent two people to serve at a Camp Noah experience in Sonoma County last summer) recently received a generous donation given in memory of a deceased teacher. The congregation elected to use the funds to purchase 50 “blanket kits” to supply one week of Camp Noah – and they are challenging other congregations to join them in supplying blankets for the other two camp weeks.
So far, the group has held two “blanket tying parties,” each for two hours on a Saturday morning, where more than 20 people each week – ranging in age from 12 to 95 – together did the cutting and tying to complete the blankets. A third “party,” scheduled for next week, will finish the job.
Forestville United Methodist Women has accepted the challenge, both to put together 10 of the Windsor blanket kits, and to purchase additional kits with their own funds. A total of 150 blankets will be needed, so more congregations and other community groups are invited to join in on this impactful mission project.
It takes no sewing experience to make a blanket. A kit, comprised of two pieces of fleece measuring 60 by 72 inches, can be purchased at JoAnn or a similar fabric/craft store. (JoAnn often puts out 30 percent-off coupons, and the kits also frequently go on sale by as much as half price, so shop around! Be sure to purchase the correct size, and avoid gender-specific prints.)
Many volunteers find it helpful to use a rotary cutter rather than fabric scissors, although this is a matter of personal preference. A cutting mat with a measuring grid printed on it is a helpful tool, also.
After laying the two pieces of fabric together, trimming off the “selvage edges,” and lining them up, a five-inch square is cut out of each corner, then five-inch strips, one-inch apart, are cut along each edge. Afterward all one has to do is to tie the strips from the two pieces of fabric together in a square knot.
A team of 2-4 people can usually get one blanket completed in about two hours (although a really experienced team might get the time down to one hour). One person might do the cutting while a partner comes along behind, tying the knots; we have found this to be very efficient.
You will note that the video says to make the cutout square and the “fringe” cuts four inches; we have found that five inches yields a better result, as the knots are easier to tie at that length. Also, many of the kits have a “border” edge printed on them (which can aid with cutting), some fabrics have words, and in some kits the two pieces of fabric don’t match up precisely. It’s worth taking the time to look carefully. Be sure to lay out your fabric with the “brighter sides” facing out and make sure the words aren’t showing backwards!
Some clever people made “templates” out of sandpaper, which stays put on the fabric, to cut the five-inch squares and the 5” x 1” strips.
Another tip: if you are using a rotary cutter (we found the “medium” size works well), replace your blade before starting this project; it will go much faster that way.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for transport of completed blankets to one of the Camp Noah sites, or to arrange to hand them over at Annual Conference Session in Modesto in June.