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considered myself a groupie of craft shows,” quips Roberts, who divulges that this sense of familiarity, along with a desire to be a good example of community service for her son, were the main reasons she felt comfortable recruiting volunteers with crafting skills. “Nicholas was nine years old when

President of Blankie Depot Hillary Roberts by Linda Sechrist H

illary Roberts, founder and president of Blankie De- pot, is quick to turn attention from herself, preferring to praise the thousands of dedicated volunteers who

give Blankie Depot their time and talents. “We are a loving collective of individuals,” explains Roberts, who has coordi- nated their efforts for the past 10 years, “which means that everyone should share the limelight.” Since establishing the 501(c)(3) nonprofit that comforts

New Jersey children in need through the gift of a cozy, hand- made blanket, Roberts has been working with generous “time givers,” who range from children in the fifth grade to adults in their 90s. Still feeling as if it is the first day of her adventure, which began in 1999 as Project Linus NJ, Inc., Roberts contin- ues to be regularly inspired by these individuals. Some enjoy crafting during their leisure time; others are service-minded high school and college students. Members of organized knit and crochet clubs, state quilt guilds and se- nior citizens corps; local artists and designers; delivery driv- ers who assist with recipient donations; community business partners who help fund Blankie Depot’s efforts; and corpo- rate volunteer teams who provide immeasurable resources, all help the organization reach its goal. “In other words,” says Roberts, “my heart is uplifted by the 7,300 community- minded people who perform simple acts of kindness with a beautiful ‘Pay It Forward’ philosophy. I’m in the phenomenal company of people who make a difference.” The fact that Roberts never knitted or crocheted didn’t deter her from starting an organization of individuals who handcraft for charity. Roberts, whose childhood was spent among family members in the bridal business, became well acquainted with fabric; she was fascinated by textiles and admired individuals who made anything by hand. “I once

we started, and now he’s not only vice president of Blankie Depot, he’s in col- lege studying to be a textile engineer,” beams Roberts, whose pride is evident when she adds that her son came up with the idea of going into classrooms to engage students in service learning programs. “When Nicholas was 14, he pointed out that, while we were helping children in need, we weren’t engaging students to help with community ser-

vice,” says Roberts. “After that, he spent his spare time as a peer leader, talking and working with local schools.” Blankie Depot works with a roster of 300-plus facilities in the state, including hospitals, cancer-treatment facili- ties, shelters, youth hospices, social service agencies, group homes, foster care, family court, teen moms, grief counselors and special needs camps. The organization, which distributes handmade blankets each year to children ranging from newborns to 18-year-olds, has to date distributed a total of 147,000. “That doesn’t include hand- crafted, toys, tote bags for adopted children, baby booties, infant hats, one-of-a-kind children’s sweaters and cancer caps,” notes Roberts. Linus, a Peanuts cartoon character who toted a secu-

rity blanket while sucking his thumb, was a reflective child, famous for saying, “I know there is a lesson to be learned in here somewhere, but I don’t know what it is.” Linus was right: All of life is full of lessons, no matter where we look. And, had he encountered Roberts, her son Nicholas and the thousands of generous volunteers she proudly encour- ages, Linus would have found a valuable lesson, as well as comfort, in the priceless donations that come from compas- sionate giving and the common thread found in service to children during their most vulnerable times in life.

Contact Blankie Depot – Project Linus NJ, Inc., in Keyport, New Jersey, at 732-335-9033 or visit

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