Library, volunteers, make fleece blankets for shelter animals

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published June 24, 2019

 Emily Renaud, 12, and her brother, Nicholas Renaud, 9, of Shelby Township, finish one of the blankets they made for the Humane Society of Macomb at the Utica  Public Library June 18.

Emily Renaud, 12, and her brother, Nicholas Renaud, 9, of Shelby Township, finish one of the blankets they made for the Humane Society of Macomb at the Utica Public Library June 18.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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UTICA — The Utica Public Library and volunteers from local communities came together last week to create fleece knot blankets for the benefit of local shelter animals.

The library received enough donated fleece to make at least 100 blankets — far more than organizers ever expected.

The library, located at 7530 Auburn Road, was overwhelmed by the huge response it received from the city and surrounding communities while collecting donations back in March following the announcement that it would be collecting fleece to make blankets for the shelter animals at the Humane Society of Macomb.

“I started to get nervous because I only have so much space,” said Katherine Francis, the children’s services coordinator at the Utica Public Library, who organized the project.

“For the amount of fleece that we got, we got enough for, I think, somewhere around 120 blankets,” Francis said.

“The donations were very overwhelming in a good way, and it made you feel a really good sense of community right there. I mean that’s amazing. And we are still talking about it to this day because we are so shocked by it. The people that showed up today (June 18), it’s nice to see that people are doing something they don’t need to do and not something they are going to keep. It’s taking time out of your day. That by itself says a lot,” she said.

On the first day to make the blankets, June 18, the library had so many volunteers that it almost didn’t have enough tables for everyone.

“I’m hoping to get at least a decent amount of it done right now,” Francis said at the June 18 event.

The library planned a second date at 1 p.m. June 25 and had many volunteers scheduled to make more knot blankets.

The blankets will be donated to the Humane Society of Macomb in Shelby Township for dogs and cats to sleep on while they look for their forever homes, and to take with them to their new homes. If there are extras, the library will offer them to other local shelters.

“Even if somebody wanted to come in and, ‘Oh I only have 20 minutes … a half hour,’ that’s OK with me. Everything helps,” said Francis.

 All that is required to make the blankets is tying pieces of the fleece together.

Francis spent much of her time completing the preparations in advance of the blanket assembly, which involved cutting the blanket materials so that they could easily be tied. However, people can also help cut the blanket materials.

Emily Renaud, 12, and Nicholas Renaud, 9, from Shelby Township, attended the June 18 event and helped tie some knot blankets.

“I like to see the dogs happy, and this, they can carry it with them their entire life,” said Emily Renaud, who attends Morgan Elementary and is on summer vacation.

Nicholas Renaud said he enjoyed the project and had fun.

“It only took 15 minutes to make,” said Nicholas.

Emily liked that she could do something that helps the shelter animals.

“It makes me feel happy that I did something to help them,” said Emily.

Library Director Marsha Doege said that the fleece collection was a big success and that it was great how many people went out of their way to do something so nice.

“We’re finally to the point of getting the blankets and putting them together and ready to take to the humane society, and I am happy with the turnout,” she said.

“It’s nice to have adults coming too. We have so many adults that wanted to do something to help, so we opened it to anyone who wants to help. We had donations from other cities … outside of Macomb County. I know I had at least two people from Rochester who wanted to bring us fleece — dog lovers and cat lovers that just wanted to be involved in it, and that’s wonderful,” said Doege.

“It’s something we would certainly consider doing again in the future, because it is a good service project. It’s nice for the humane society and for the library to give back to the community,” she said.

She joked that local fabric stores had a lot of visitors looking for fleece.

“We appreciate our community, and we just have a great community that really responds when there is a need, and just steps right up,” Doege said.

There were many different fleece patterns, from animal-themed to food-themed, that were donated by the community.

Francis said the library would be donating the blankets that get finished after the second date (June 25) to the shelter; however, the library might have another event in November to make blankets if they still have material left after the first two events.

For more information on the project or to volunteer, call the library at (586) 731-4141.

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