ERIE Volunteers Produce Certificates of Contribution

Nothing gives comfort like a soft blanket, especially when you know it’s made with good intentions, knitted or crocheted.

That’s the philosophy of Project Linus and a growing group of ERIE family members who have signed on with the non-profit group as “clothesmen.” Blanketeers is the name given to a group of volunteer blanket makers. She knits, knits, blankets or knots for children in need due to trauma, illness or other reasons.

Project Linus has distributed nearly 9 million blankets since 1995. ERIE Blanketeers are committed to adding 50 more to that total by the end of the year through a project they call the ERIE Blue Blanket Drive.

Inspiration Is A Wand

Darren Trautman, project manager, Sales & Product Strategy & Program Management, found the whole ball of yarn.

After recently returning to Erie, Pennsylvania, and prompted by a hometown friend to give back in some way, Darren said he pondered: “What’s my thing? What is most important to me?”

Another inspiration came through her friend’s adoption and the realization that children in foster care come to new homes with nothing to call it, she said.

Knitting to Do

Hoping to combine his 20-year-old hobby with an inspiring cause, Darren did some—and Google—searching. He also found some needle associations had rules about the thread to use and other issues. Project Linus had “only three requirements,” he said. “No fur (due to allergies), the items provided must be fresh, handmade—that.”

A bonus for Darren, who joined ERIE in November and wishes other ERIE employees would do the same: The nonprofit receives handmade wool blankets. It does not require special skills or knowledge, and one can complete it in about an hour.

He sent an email inviting volunteers to the Sales & Products department and it worked Company proposal ERIE Service Corps required by ERIE’s Diversity & Community Development Department.

“I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that ERIE is open to supporting the cause in any way you want to give,” said Darren.

Focusing on a Greater Cause

In about a month, the project has 40 volunteers and they have completed 20 blankets to reach their goal.

The West Virginia sales team made the latest additions at a meeting on July 21. Kam Lawson, senior business support specialist, organized the project.

“I make quilts and I’ve seen this advertised in quilt magazines, but it really hit home after I saw the ERIE staff working on a 50-blanket project,” Kam said. “When I received the instructions to go to the knitted shirt, I thought that’s what our branch sales team could do at our meeting.”

He cut the wool and spread the blanket to tie it so that the meeting could begin. Many hands work lightly.

Another example: In June, 11 ERIE Blanketeers, held a blanket meeting in the Thomas B. Hagen House. She knitted, crocheted and tied woolen blankets.

The group also heard about the work of Project Linus—and got tips on how to make wool blankets—from Joann Burkhardt, Northwestern Pennsylvania chapter coordinator, showing acceptance of the first ERIE blankets from Darren in the photo above. The chapter donated more than 4,000 blankets last year, all of them local.

At the end of the session, they completed eight blankets to comfort children in need.

Darren is happy with the progress, but he also wants some ideas for the ERIE Blanketeers. “Hopefully, there’s something exciting coming,” he said. If anyone has any ideas on how to get involved, or get their team involved, I’d love to hear them!

Back to the Basics

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