El Dorado— A young boy in a volatile family situation entering the
Kansas foster care network for the second time wanted to bring just one
thing—the quilt he received the first time he entered state care.
He got the quilt as a part of the Warm Embrace Project, an
ongoing collection drive organized by the Department of Social and
Rehabilitation Services’ South Central and Wichita Regions. In 2011, the project
gathered 717 newly made quilts, afghans and fleece blankets, in addition to
crocheted hats, gloves and scarves. In December, case workers distributed them
to the children who had entered state care within the last 12 months.
“When children come into foster care with very few
possessions, it is a time of uncertainty and adjustment. It is
important for a child to have a sense of stability and security,” said Toni
Harryman, who works in the El Dorado SRS service center and coordinates the Warm
To produce so many blankets is a massive task. Afghans,
quilts and fleece blankets are all labor intensive, requiring both time and
skill. But the south central Kansas community spreads it out among themselves to
benefit children newly placed in state care.
“This has really brought a lot of communities together. We
have a lot of quilt guilds and individuals who donate all year round for this
project and we just couldn’t be successful without them,” Toni said.
Quilting businesses such as Charlotte Sew Natural in Newton
and Friendship Star Quilt Co. in El Dorado alongside the Crochet Angel Group in
Hutchinson and others make it a priority not only to make the blankets, but to
promote the project, serve as a drop off location for finished blankets, and
offer discounts on supplies.
But the blankets aren’t made only by people deeply involved
in the hobby. A Girl Scout chapter put together a quilt with blocks made by each
girl in the troop. A Rose Hill Middle School teacher got word of the project and
decided to work it into her curriculum plan. The teacher was so impressed with
the meaningful nature of the Warm Embrace Project that she decided to submit it
to the Ellen DeGeneres talk show as an inspirational story.
Talk show producers have not contacted SRS about featuring
the project on the show, but blanket production and collection continue in an
effort to comfort Kansas children who have been removed from home for their
The Warm Embrace project started four years ago as the Quilt
Project, but underwent a name change in 2011 to reflect the expanding varieties
of blankets accepted for donation. Seven SRS locations in south central Kansas
are drop off points for donations, including El Dorado, Emporia, Hutchinson,
McPherson, Newton, Wellington and Winfield service centers.
The children who receive the blankets are 0 to 18 years old.
The greatest need is for blankets for youth and teenage boys as well as teenage
To learn more about how to donate to the Warm Embrace
Project, please contact Toni Harryman at (316) 321-4200, extension 333.