Never underestimate the power of a blanket.
No one knows that better than Jessica Stonefield-Fantin who has witnessed firsthand the effects a simple piece of fabric can have on children, especially those traumatized by domestic violence.
After the birth of her first son, Blake, she purchased a sewing machine to create handmade keepsakes for him. Her first creation was a blanket.
“I noticed that he would cling and hug the blanket whenever he was upset, sad or needed comforting,” said Stonefield-Fantin, a project manager for Southern California Edison (SCE) and mother of two young boys. “So I started thinking about children abruptly displaced as a result of domestic violence. I wondered what a blanket could do for children not as fortunate as my son.”
In 2010, she started Safe Warm Loved, hand-making small cuddle blankets for children forced to flee their homes to escape abusive households.
Too often, Stonefield-Fantin said, battered women seeking a temporary safe haven don’t have a chance to plan or pack. Consequently, their children are suddenly uprooted, have no clue where they’re going, and often are forced to leave personal possessions behind.
“These kids don’t have their favorite things they can take with them,” she said. “They’re so scared, they don’t know where they are, and many of them don’t know what’s happening. So I wanted the blankets to be like the ones I made and gave my own children, and to be just as comforting to them.”
Recently, a kaleidoscope of 46 Safe Warm Loved blankets was delivered to WINGS (Women In Need Growing Strong), a women’s shelter located in Covina. The facility is one of the largest domestic violence shelters in Los Angeles County. Their goal is to help domestic violence victims and their kids move out of their abusive environments into a place of safety and autonomy.
“The blankets are absolutely beautiful and you can certainly tell there was a lot of care and love put into making them,” said Jody Winger, a representative for WINGS. “We always want our children to feel loved, special and to have something to take with them.”
Stonefield-Fantin credits this latest blanket bounty to her co-workers in Corporate Communications who regularly inspire each other to do good by collaborating on projects that give back to others. This quarter, they chose Safe Warm Loved.
Colleagues brought sewing machines from home and organized a sewing circle. They used an empty conference room that allowed volunteers to stitch away during their free time at work. More than 20 volunteers, including three children of employees, got involved buying fabric, sewing or sharing their sewing machines with others.
And for those who had never stitched a lick in their lives, the experience proved heartwarming.
“Although donating money is probably the most common form of giving, there is something truly soul-satisfying about giving something you made with your hands,” said Ed Hume, an Edison International principal manager, who made three blankets. “I didn’t think I could learn to sew in such a short time, but Jess’ enthusiasm is infectious.”
Each blanket measures 3 feet by 3 feet and is made of minky, a super soft, plush fabric perfect for snuggling and consoling. Once completed, each is rolled and tied with a ribbon affixed to a card that reads Safe Warm Loved, and is signed personally by the individual who made it.
“By putting a person’s name with a blanket, it shows people, especially children, that it was made with love. It didn’t come from a store, but was handmade by someone who cares about them,” said Stonefield-Fantin.
She estimates she’s personally handmade between 125 - 130 blankets over a two-year period. The satisfaction she receives knowing she’s helped raise the comfort level of children during a time of emotional duress and uncertainty in their lives is priceless.
“I’m not a millionaire and I can’t give lots of money to an organization,” said Stonefield-Fantin. “But I’ve seen what a blanket can do for a child. You can’t buy them a sense of love, security and comfort. You can only get that when you know someone cares about you.”