HHM Dec21 leader

Michele Willis

Kern County Chapter Coordinator for Project Linus

In the beloved comic strip, Peanuts, Charles Schulz introduced the character Linus, who used a security blanket to protect and comfort himself when life got tough. In the real world, Michele Willis, Kern County Chapter Coordinator of Project Linus, helps make blankets for children in crisis who need similar comforting.
Since its inception in 2006, the local Project Linus chapter has donated over 5,000 blankets to help Kern County's children. An all-volunteer organization, Project Linus comforts through new, handmade blankets given to seriously ill and traumatized children. These blankets are made with love by volunteer "blanketeers," who meet on the third Tuesday of every month. The chapter's Community Make a Blanket Day will be held on February 21 at East Hills Mall, Center Court, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
"Our blankets are given to any child in a crisis situation. It's sad that there is such a need for our blankets, but Project Linus is here to fill that need," Michele says. "If we can touch someone's life and make it a little better, then it is all worth it."
Project Linus recently started a new program to help the Kern County Probation Department. Where children who are on probation for non-violent offenses will learn how to make blankets. Michele says this program's goal is two-fold: a way for these kids to give back to the community and an opportunity for them to learn a new skill.
In 2005, Michele learned about Project Linus while looking online for ways to provide community service. Having grown up endeared to the Peanuts gang, the familiar Linus char-acter caught her attention. Adding her love of sewing, she had the perfect volunteering venture that began in January 2006.
As a mother of six children, Michele wants them to experience the benefits of giving back to the community, especially because five of her children were adopted. In 2002, when their oldest son, Cameron, was seven years old, she and her husband, Tom, decided to adopt another child.
Sooner than they imagined, they received a call that a newborn baby boy was available. "We had two days to get ready for this brand-new baby. We didn't have anything we bought out Target," she says.
After six weeks with their new baby named Christopher, Cameron loved his little brother, but he still wanted a playmate closer to his age. They learned of four siblings ready for adoption. Soon Adam, Nicholas, Monet, and Joshua became part of their family.
The transition period proved difficult, but Tom and Michele remained committed to their children. Six years later, life has calmed down and they are happy with their active family. "It was a big, huge life change. In a six-to- eight-week period, we went from one child to six children," Michele says. "We made promises to these kids that they would not have to go to another home."
Michele believes that no matter what trials you have in your life, you can make the best of them. "Trials allow us to be able to learn things and grow," she says. She learned this optimistic view of life firsthand from her mother, who became a quadriplegic after a car accident caused by a drunk driver in 1970. She never asked, "Why me?" instead she asked, "Why not me?"
Michele also thanks her mom for introducing her to her future husband, Tom, who uses a wheel- chair since breaking his neck in a diving accident at Buena Vista Lake in 1980. They recently celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary.
For more information about Project Linus, please visit www.orgsites.com/ca/bakersfield kerncounty or email Michele at quiltz4kids@sbcglobal.net. For national information, check out www.projectlinus.org.

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