Fleece Connection Provides Homemade Blankets to Area Veterans
Sep 24, 2019 10:41PM
By Kathleen Ganster
Students at Eden Christian Academy
Everyone knows that a warm, toasty blanket feels good and can bring comfort, especially when you’re sick or recovering.
Madison Van Oss took that comfort level one step further by creating blankets for hospitalized veterans through The Fleece Connection.
The project started when Van Oss was growing up in Richland Township and had to complete a senior project in 2010 as a student at Eden Christian Academy.
“I wanted something that would have an impact and help others,” she said. Van Oss decided to make fleece blankets for the homeless, something that she could easily complete and that would have an impact. She raised funds through friends and family to purchase materials, and in the course of her senior year completed 100 blankets.
“I was able to hand deliver them to the homeless in the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia and it was a great feeling,” Van Oss said.
Since she had been so successful with her blanket project in high school, Van Oss decided to continue through college, and every year would choose a different organization to receive the blankets. It wasn’t until she was a young professional that Van Oss came up with the idea of gifting the blankets to hospitalized veterans.
“It was my first corporate job and we had a program where we supported veterans—that inspired me to think that I could be donating the blankets to them,” she said.
Van Oss reached out to her pastor at Memorial Park Church in Allison Park who suggested that she contact Jaime Dean, a church member who works closely with several veterans’ organizations.
“We met for coffee, and Jaime said that it was a great idea and we went from there,” Van Oss said.
Dean, now a board member of The Fleece Connection, helped Van Oss organize their first blanket making workshop at the church in January 2016.
“I had hoped to make about five blankets, and we made 25. It was unreal,” Van Oss said.
For Dean, partnering with Van Oss was an easy decision. With a son who had served in the military and other family members who are also veterans, Dean could help serve a population that she had close ties with.
“It really is a win-win for everyone. For civilians, it is a way for them to connect to the military. People are supportive of our military, but they don’t know how to show their support in a tangible way. For the veterans, they receive a blanket and know someone cares,” Dean said.
The project soon garnered attention from other churches, organizations and businesses who started reaching out to host blanket workshops. Van Oss realized the need to form a nonprofit and in 2017, the organization officially became a 501©(3).
Blanket workshops are hosted by organizations and groups of 10 or more wanting to serve those who have served their country. Each workshop takes two hours and costs $25 per blanket. The fee covers the fleece, a card, and a dog tag that is attached to the completed blanket. Those wishing to make blankets on their own may contact the organization for more information.
While they appreciate all of the blanket donations, Van Oss said that there are also many benefits to hosting a workshop.
“People get to work together and socialize. We have had corporate workshops where people are meeting each other for the first time even though they work in the same building,” she said.
Completed blankets are then delivered to various veterans’ hospitals and hospice organizations both locally and nationally.
“It is my favorite part—delivering the blankets to the veterans. The reactions are priceless,” Van Oss said.
For more information about The Fleece Connection, visit www.fleececonnection.org.