by COOPER TINSLEY
WESTFIELD, Ind. (Dec. 2018) - Theresa Owens, co-founder of Blankets from Joe, her sister Michele Durthaler and their family still recall sitting in a Florida Intensive Care Unit, quivering from the cold, after their father suffered from what turned out to be a fatal heart attack. In memory of their father, Joe DeFranco, 75, they created Blankets From Joe.
“We spent long days with him in the ICU, as well as a few nights in the lounge on the floor,” Mrs. Owens said. “We had one nurse, Matt, who gave us a warmed blanket one day—like the ones they reserve for patients. We were so grateful. That memory is what compelled us to start Blankets from Joe.”
Mrs. Owens and her family started accepting blanket donations in September of 2017 (blankets must be new, handmade or store-bought).
“Several people ordered blankets online and shipped them directly to our home,” Mrs. Owens said. “The Amazon, UPS and FedEx delivery people became very familiar with our house.”
If a team, club or group of some kind would like to donate before the acceptance date, they will store blankets in a warehouse, so all are encouraged to donate. Mrs. Owens’ daughter, Chloe Owens, a junior at Westfield High School, spoke to many school teams and clubs and even got teachers to allow their rooms to be a “drop-off spot.”
After reaching out to the community, they garnered many group donations. The National Charity League Crossroads Chapter (165 blankets), the WHS Swim Team (64 blankets) and the Harter Family (50 blankets) were among the top contributors of 2018. Blankets from Joe has provided 1,349 blankets in just two years (574 in 2017 and 775 in 2018).
“Additionally, because our dad was such a great storyteller who kept the memories of loved ones alive through the stories he told and retold long after they were gone, we decided to have each blanket tagged in memory of someone who has passed,” Mrs. Owens said. “So when someone donates a blanket, they also fill out a tag with the name of someone now gone.”
Mrs. Owens describes the program as a “two-for-one”--one can help out families currently in hospitals and remember lost loved ones.
After donating, the blankets are brought to the IU Health Foundation and distributed via the IU Health Foundation to patients and families in the cold waiting rooms at Methodist Hospital.
Top left: Owens and Durthaler family after a blanket delivery. Top right: the WHS swim team mid-delivery. Bottom left: hospital volunteers preparing to distribute the blankets. Bottom right: Chloe Owens with Mr. Miracle, one of the many teachers who supported Blankets from Joe. photos courtesy of Theresa Owens
If you would like to support this wonderful cause and donate to Blankets from Joe, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information.