Lap robes will warm up veterans' lives

November 13, 2008 

Veterans in the geriatric unit of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Fresno need lap blankets, and you may be able to help. You may crochet, knit, quilt, tie fleece, or purchase one.

A lap blanket is approximately 36-by-48 inches. Any bright colors in durable, washable yarns or materials are the most desirable. Patriotic and unisex colors are good choices.

Mary Dempsey, owner of A Bit of Yarn in Oakhurst, is spearheading the second annual Mountain Area "Hug-A-Hero" endeavor to bring some warmth and comfort to veterans. "Hug-A-Hero" is a part of Soldiers' Angels, an organization dedicated to serving all those who serve and have served our country.

"There was no light in their eyes," said Dempsey, referring to veterans she'd seen in the geriatric unit of the hospital.

Dempsey was the sole caregiver of her grandfather, a WWII veteran. Periodically, Dempsey would take her grandfather to the VA Hospital for a few weeks so she could have necessary respite.

It was while visiting her grandfather during these times that she noticed the lack of visitors at the bedside of many veterans. "It was like they had been brought here and left," Dempsey said.

Unwilling to ignore the compassion she felt for those who appeared to have been abandoned, Dempsey decided to do something. She noticed that many veterans in residence were in wheelchairs most of the day, and recognized that a lap blanket would be a cozy, welcome personal belonging.

Dempsey contacted Bruce's Sew Handy in Coarsegold and Bear Paw Quilts in Oakhurst and they enlisted as willing partners, as she did. As a result of their combined efforts last year, Mountain Area residents created and gave 117 lap blankets to veterans in the geriatric unit of the Fresno VA Hospital.

The goal this year is 250 lap blankets.

Roll the lap blanket snugly, tie it with a wide ribbon, and attach a note card including your name and any good thoughts and thanks you'd like to convey. An example is "This lap blanket was made with love and gratitude by (your name) and Soldiers' Angels."

Deliver it to A Bit of Yarn, Bear Paw Quilts, or Bruce's Sew Handy before Dec.13.

For information, call Dempsey at (559)-683-4760.

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