EDDINGTON, Maine — Donna Oliver has worked for the past nine years on a service learning project at the Eddington School in which fourth-grade students make quilts for Project Linus, a national effort that distributes blankets to children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need.
It was only recently, however, that the effort really hit home for the Eddington students.
“We had one boy this year who had appendicitis right before Christmas, and he got a Project Linus quilt,” said Oliver, who teaches fourth grade and also serves as an assistant principal. “He came back to school and he was telling all the kids, ‘Project Linus really needs quilts over to that hospital.’ He was very enthused.”
This year 35 fourth-graders made 24 quilts, which, along with nine adult-made quilts, will be on public display from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.
The quilts will be picked up Wednesday morning by representatives from Project Linus, along with officials from Spruce Run, a Bangor shelter for people affected by domestic abuse, and the Ronald McDonald House, a facility for families whose children are receiving treatment at nearby hospitals.
“The kids brainstorm where they would like them to go,” said Oliver. “We’ve sent some to the Eddington Fire Department and some to Brewer, but we’ve always given them to Project Linus. As the years go on and the number [of quilts] have increased, we’ve decided to give one or two elsewhere.”
Oliver organizes the quilting effort, although she probably wouldn’t be able to complete it without the help of a group she calls “The Grammies.”
Each student gets a piece of paper, on which the student traces, with fabric crayons, a picture from a coloring book or another picture the youngster finds. Oliver irons 12 of the designs onto a piece of fabric to make one quilt.
Oliver then brings in “The Grammies” — a group of five or so women who either have had children or grandchildren go to the school or who have an interest in quilting and the time to work with the current students — for one hour each Friday to help the students stitch and complete the quilt.
“Some of them are a little timid with the sewing machine, but the kids like doing it,” said Eddington resident Charlene Rockwell, one of the Grammie-group regulars.
The quilts are part of a service learning project for the school, so the educational component comes in when the quilts are finished. Students must decide how they want the images assembled on the quilt, and after Oliver and the Grammies have put on the batting or backing and then bound the quilt, the students use their math skills to measure the length, width and total perimeter of the quilts as part of a math lesson.
“They have to do academics,” Oliver said. “Otherwise it would just be a community service project.”
Most of the materials are donated, Oliver said, but she does use service-learning funds to purchase the fabric crayons.
At least one student did all 12 designs for a quilt, while other students team up to complete one.
This year’s designs ranged from butterflies to construction equipment to sea animals.
Occasionally, Oliver said, the students have to be gently reminded that they can’t take their creations home with them.
“When they see the finished project, they want it and they don’t want to let go of it,” she said. “Then we tell them it’s for somebody who really needs a hug or a quilt to wrap up in, and they say, yeah, OK.”
For more information or a pattern to make a quilt, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Eddington School, care of Donna Oliver, 440 Main Road, Eddington 04428.