2013-12-27 / Front Page

Project provides gift of warmth

Middle school seventh-grader enlists classmates to make blankets for homeless
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK – Chanel Bedard, with the help of her seventh-grade peers from the Dalton team at Middle School of the Kennebunks, is spearheading the making of fleece blankets for nearly 100 homeless youth in Portland this holiday season.

The project was conceived after 13-yearold Bedard noticed what seemed like a rise in homelessness.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of homeless people around lately,” Bedard said. “I asked my mom, ‘Where do they sleep at night?’ I wanted to do something to help out.”

Bedard visited Preble Street in Portland after contacting the director for a firsthand view of the facility and the type of youth who sought services there.

Preble Street provides services to people experiencing problems with homelessness, housing, hunger, and poverty.

“I don’t think I realized there were so many (youth). I didn’t even really realize there were homeless teenagers,” Bedard said of her visit.


Caitlin Wolff, left, of Middle School of the Kennebunks’ seventh-grade Dalton team, watches as her classmates tie the frayed ends of a two-part fleece blanket together. Chanel Bedard, second from left, organized the no-sew philanthropic effort, Feel-Good Fleece. Bedard and Dalton team classmates made 100 fleece blankets for homeless teenagers who seek services at Preble Street in Portland. Next to Bedard are Laura Farmer, Thomas Van Deinse and TJ McNally. Left, Bedard ties the ends of a no-sew fleece blanket together with classmates Van Deinse and Farmer. (Alex Acquisto photos) Caitlin Wolff, left, of Middle School of the Kennebunks’ seventh-grade Dalton team, watches as her classmates tie the frayed ends of a two-part fleece blanket together. Chanel Bedard, second from left, organized the no-sew philanthropic effort, Feel-Good Fleece. Bedard and Dalton team classmates made 100 fleece blankets for homeless teenagers who seek services at Preble Street in Portland. Next to Bedard are Laura Farmer, Thomas Van Deinse and TJ McNally. Left, Bedard ties the ends of a no-sew fleece blanket together with classmates Van Deinse and Farmer. (Alex Acquisto photos) Bedard, with the help of her mom, Sarah Bedard, contacted the director of the Preble Street Teen Center in Portland to see if the facility’s homeless teens were in need of any items.

“They told me they are in deep need of warm blankets and bedding,” Bedard said. She presented her findings to students and teachers on the Dalton team in a keynote presentation.

Familiar with making no-sew fleece blankets, Bedard began making 100 blankets, the number she was given. She soon realized, however, that such a costly (approximately $2,000 worth of material), work-intensive undertaking might not be feasible alone.

“Her mom came to us and said Chanel had come up with a great idea and asked if we could help with Chanel’s efforts,” said Dalton team seventh-grade teacher Jenessa Cadorette.

After the teachers conferred and decided a team effort would be ideal, they approached Bedard to tell her of their support.

“She’s really excited and she wore the biggest smile,” Cadorette said.

Enthusiastic about all community service opportunities, Cadorette said she and fellow Daltom team teachers gladly gave up the money otherwise put toward the teacher gift swap to donate to Bedard’s project.

The Dalton team has been participating in an annual Day of Caring for several years, said Polly Meinders, another Dalton team teacher.

For several years, seventh-graders have been bussed up to Portland for the day after being given at least six choices of places where they could donate their time.

One of those choices included serving food at the Preble Street Teen Center, Meinders said.

Two years ago, the Dalton team decided to stay in York County for Day of Caring.

Bedard’s project aligns with the purpose of Day of Caring, Meinders said, “but with this it’s more organic and easier to execute because students can work on it right here.”

“The kids feel really good about it,” said Meinders, who agreed that building on an individual student’s altruistic vision is, in many ways, more gratifying for the students.

The Dalton team is comprised of six teachers and approximately 85 students.

“Each classroom is hoping to make the number of blankets per number of students in the classroom,” Cadorette said.

Each blanket requires approximately 2 to 2 ½ yards of fleece. The edges of the blankets are then cut about 3 inches deep in 1-inch intervals, so that the edges are uniformly frayed.

The loose ends are then tied together, omitting the need for sewing. Students have been working on blankets at school during their advisory periods and after school in their spare time.

The project, which Bedard named Feel-Good Fleece, quickly became popular. Cadorette said students from other grades or teams have caught wind of the project and asked if they could help out, too.

“It’s just become something bigger than we even thought,” Cadorette said.

When asked, as the interested around Feel-Good Fleece swelled, why she didn’t decide to buy fleece blankets instead of laboring over each one, Bedard said, “We wanted the blankets to be made from us, to be customized. People have been buying fabric they like and are more excited about it.”

The blankets were to be completed by the middle of last week. Bedard and a few friends planned to deliver the blankets to the teens at the Preble Street Teen Center’s Center Christmas Party on Wednesday, Dec. 18.

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