Blanket Ministry Exceeds Goal In Worrisome Year

60 volunteers make 550 blankets

After more than two decades of holding her annual Santa & Friends “Share the Love” blanket ministry, Debbie Ferrell Cann faced a crossroads.

COVID-19 hit hard in 2020 and with volunteers driving the outreach, Cann wasn’t sure if she would even have the staff to make this year’s ministry happen. Cann decided to test the waters and gauge the interest in keeping the tradition alive through social media, not quite knowing what the response would be. 

“Back in January, when we normally would start kicking off getting our ladies lined up to volunteer, we had a couple who worked with us who passed away this past year, we had several ladies who actually were quarantined, so I thought I would just put a filler out there on one of the social groups to see if there were any ladies interested in getting involved,” Cann said. “Then I would know whether God wanted me to move on with this.”

Cann’s curiosity paid off as dozens of volunteers reached out and offered to help with sewing, crocheting, cutting and knitting. As the calendar turned to February, the targeted month of distribution due to it being National Heart Awareness Month, “Share the Love” not only equaled its pre-pandemic total but exceeded it.

“I had an amazing response,” said Cann. “I had 40 ladies who volunteered their time to make these blankets, and about two dozen kids, even some teenage boys, who I was so proud of. We had 60 some people. We thought we had a really good year last year when we did about 400 blankets. This year we have 550 blankets that we will be delivering to the nursing homes.”

Blanket makers spanned the ages of 4 to 87, with many expressing appreciation for the chance to help others struggling through the pandemic. Missing out on the one-on-one interaction with the people receiving the blankets, however, still stings, Cann said.

“Many of these people were so excited and said this was such a blessing for them,” said Cann. “They were sitting there thinking what they could do to help and then saw the ad. The blessing is not only the people who are going to get the blanket, it’s also the people who were a part of this team.

“This year is very different for us because usually Santa and I actually go visit the nursing home and are able to put these blankets on the residents. This year, of course, we can’t because of COVID. We will be peeking in windows. We won’t actually get to go in and love and hug and all those things that we enjoy so much with those residents.”

“Share the Love” this year also included a piece to recognize nursing home staff. In addition to the blankets, Santa & Friends also will be bringing goodie baskets for health care workers and letters of appreciation written by children.

“What a tough year it’s been for them,” Cann said of nursing home staffs. “The residents are lonely and depressed and the staff is making a tremendous sacrifice to be there and take care of them. It was just amazing how it came together this year. It’s such a wonderful story of people who came together to make this happen.”

Despite all of the obstacles and uncertainty, “Share the Love” will once again deliver blankets starting this Valentine’s Day weekend. Cann said she expects to visit around a dozen nursing homes in the surrounding area over the coming weeks. The ministry generally focuses on lower income facilities and patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

“Some of those facilities have kind of fallen through the cracks,” said Cann. “We really enjoy being able to visit those facilities.”

Cann started this year at a crossroads, but thanks to an outpouring of community support, 2021 turned out to be better than ever.

-Dunn Daily Record