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Monday, July 20, 2009

The Blanket Ladies

The best part about my job as a leadership speaker, is that I get to give of myself to the audiences I speak to; addressing problems they are facing, and inspiring them to overcome those challenges. The next best part though is that sometimes, many times, they inspire me right back.

Recently I spoke to a men’s breakfast group at a church in the nearby community of Liberty Hill, Texas. The church was founded in 1854, and the building, while going through additions and renovations, has parts dating from 1870 and is listed as a Texas historic site. The church has served as both a public school and a Masonic lodge in its early history.

After my talk, I was given “the nickel tour” by my hosts. As a historian, I was in hog heaven (no pun intended). The church still has a bell in the steeple and the kids get to ring the bell at the end of services every week. The stained glass in the church was begun in 1918 and finally completed in 2004 and is absolutely beautiful.

However, for all the church’s history and physical beauty, what inspired me is a particular project the ladies of the church have undertaken over the last several years. Many of the ladies in the church make blankets for Project Linus. In case you haven’t heard, Project Linus provides blankets to children in need of warmth, security and love. Nationally, to date over three million blankets have been given to children undergoing hospitalization, who are abused or entering the foster care system, or children whose lives have been interrupted when the police have been called because of parents who are abusing each other.

While the cause is certainly a worthy one and warmed my heart, what inspired me, and frankly blew me away, was the stories of the ladies themselves. For example, a couple of the ladies are in their 80s and still making blankets. Another lady suffered a stroke, but told her fellow blanket makers “Don’t worry, I’ll be a little slower now, but I’ll get my blankets done.” And she does. Yet another has arthritis so bad she can’t hold a regular crochet hook, so she had someone modify the hook, making the handle larger so she can hold it and still make blankets.

One of the ladies has made over 180 handmade blankets, and several others are well over 100 blankets. Local police officers carry the blankets in their cars; hospitals have them on hand, and CPS officials always make sure to have a few as well. The women get thank you notes on occasion addressed to “The Blanket Lady,” and those notes help them stay focused on the needs of the child that will one day use the blanket for warmth of body and strength of soul.

I urge all of you to give of yourselves, as all of us have something beautiful inside us that we should share with another. While the direct payoff is to the people we help, we also receive the blessing. Our resilience is increased, our families are served by our good example, and our community is strengthened; paying its own dividend to us in ways we may never fully realize.

Ladies, my hat is off, my head bowed, and my heart filled by your example. Thank you.

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. He has graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is the author of Leadership For All the Mountains You Climb. He can be reached at

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