Bryanna Maturen did not know how people would react. Here was a 14-year-old, standing up in front of the congregation at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Saginaw, asking for support – asking for money to buy fabric and supplies. This was the first step and perhaps the biggest challenge of a three-month project; she wasn’t sure how people would react.
“I was looking for ways to do community service, and I like to work with others,” she said, “then I heard about Project Linus.” Maturen enjoys craft projects, so when she discovered the mission of Project Linus, she connected with it immediately. The mission as stated on the nonprofit’s website is to “provide love, a sense a security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer ‘blanketeers.’”
“When I had first presented this to the pastors, they were surprised. They liked the idea, and it was a great opportunity to get youth involved in a service project,” Maturen stated.
“I was very excited when Bryanna brought this to us,” stated Rev. Daniel Ross, associate pastor at Good Shepherd. “One of our goals is to build up leaders within the youth. So to see a youth take the initiative and bring this project to the Youth Ministry was awesome. One of my first questions, if not the first, was how we could support her in making this happen.”
After presenting to her church, she stepped down, and returned to her pew. What happened after the service came as a surprise to Maturen. “So many people came up to me and were asking how they could help. I was really surprised by the support.” She quickly had enough in donations to start planning the “blanket-making” event, which would potentially produce over 200 blankets.
The Blanket-Making Event
Maturen wasn’t new to crafting, but she had never organized a group of volunteers for a large scale undertaking like this. After generating interest, she had pulled together roughly 30 volunteers, including her parents, pastors, and all of the youth of the church.
According to Maturen, one blanket takes about 30 minutes for one person to complete. However, with multiple people working on a blanket, anywhere from two to five people can be working on one in the different crafting stages. With this process in place, one blanket takes only 10 minutes to produce.
The project was spread over a two-day span. “We met after church [the first day] and worked from Noon to 4:00 p.m.,” Maturen said. “Honestly, I didn’t know how the other volunteers would react, and I thought they might get tired. But they were laughing, and having a good time, they were asking questions about where the blankets were going and wondering if they could go too to deliver the blankets. It really made me happy to see that they were enjoying the project.” In four hours, the group had put together 93 blankets.
The group met the next Saturday to complete the project. By the end of the day, they had produced a total of 238 blankets. The blankets were then spread out along the backs of pews throughout the sanctuary. When asked how she felt at that moment, Maturen said, “Finding that we could fill the whole church; it was a really big surprise for people the next day as they came in for the church service. They were surprised to see how much of an impact this project had.”
Blessing the Blankets
During the worship service, there was a special blessing ceremony for the blankets. The pastor shared a couple of Bible verses, and then he had the whole congregation place their hands on them. “It was important for the congregation to bless the blankets,” Rev. Ross stated. “These blankets are a physical representation of God’s love to those in need (whether in the hospital or local shelter). As such, we wanted to make sure that they were covered in love from both the congregation and God. When people use them we wanted them to not only be warm from the physical blanket, but also surrounded by love, warmth, and hope. Having the whole congregation bless the blankets was also way to get everybody involved that couldn’t necessarily be involved with the making of the blankets. It was a way for the congregation to visibly see what came of their support and donations for this servant event.”
Rev. Ross went on to say that the blankets are not about Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, but about showing God’s love and touching upon Christ’s words found in Matthew 25:30-40. The church included the words of the prayer in a special Facebook post “so that anybody who came across the post might be able to ask for God’s blessings in the lives of the people who will receive them.”
Maturen will head out within the next few weeks and help deliver the blankets with Wendy Mahaffey, the Project Linus Chapter Coordinator for the Tri-City Area. In her three years with Project Linus, Wendy said, “I have never gotten as many blankets as Bryanna has helped put together.” The blankets will be taken to organizations such as Underground Railroad, Inc. of Saginaw.
“Children are my biggest influence,” Maturen said. “I teach Sunday school at my church. I see the commercials about kids in need. They [the children] made me want to do it.” She went on to say, “My family loved the idea and encouraged me to do it.”
Whether her future is in crafting and service projects, or a life pursuing her other passion for culinary arts, Maturen is a shining example of faith in action, seeking to serve those in need where she is in this time and place.
Praise be to God!
Photos courtesy Good Shepherd, Saginaw & Bryanna Maturen