BRIGHTON — It was a sight to warm any mother’s heart — scores of teenaged boys, hunched over tables or on the floor, not to play games, not to talk sports, but to make fleece blankets for children in foster care.
The McQuaid Jesuit High School students, in conjunction with officials from the Rochester-Monroe County Youth Bureau and the federal AmeriCorps program, made the fleece blankets Jan. 26 in the school’s first-floor conference room and lobby. The students cut fringes on sheets of fleece to make the blankets.
By the end of the day, almost 200 students and 40 faculty and staff members participated in the project, which produced 165 blankets for foster children, according to Chris Hood, director of the school’s Christian Service program. The fleece needed to make the blankets was purchased through students’ donations, Hood said. He added that McQuaid’s middle- and high-school students are required to do community service as part of their education, and that the blanket-making day was one way students could fulfill the requirement.
Trevor Packer, a senior at the all-boys high school, said he found making the blankets difficult.
“I have more appreciation for the women who do it,” he said.
An enlightened classmate chimed in, asking why only women should be associated with blanket-making. Realizing he had made a potentially explosive statement, Trevor deftly recovered, noting that men can enjoy making blankets, too, a point seconded by Nick Cardillo, a senior.
“I enjoy working with the fleece,” he said. “It’s very nice and fluffy.”
David McCue, a junior, said that he had made blankets before and had sewn other items as well.
“This is pretty simple,” he said as he and his friends cut fringes on the blankets.
Karla Boyce, executive director of the youth bureau, noted that 10 McQuaid faculty members had previously worked with her agency to make blankets for children in foster care. Her agency then decided that it was important to get McQuaid’s boys involved in the project, she said. More than 1,000 children, from infants to teenagers, are currently in foster care in Monroe County, she said, and the blankets represent the community’s concern for kids in difficult situations.
“These blankets will be given to those who, unfortunately, might be yanked out of their house in the middle of the night,” she said.
She said that some children who have to be immediately removed from a home don’t even have time to pack their own clothes.
“This is some kind of security blanket for them,” she said.
Lowell Jesmer, a junior, said he enjoyed making the blankets.
“You get to see the end result right away,” he said.
Hood said that the students were learning more than blanket-making that day.
“We’re basically trying to instill a lifelong habit of service,” Hood said. “This is just as important a requirement of your education as taking math.”
He added that many students had an ulterior motive to make the blankets.
“The chance to get out of class is always appealing to students,” he said with a smile.