photo of Sandy Rosenblum Mills '61

A warm state

As a 4-year-old, Sandy Rosenblum Mills '61 knitted scarves for soldiers during World War II. Today, she knits afghans for foster children in Massachusetts for The Afghan Project, recruiting others to join the effort.

The Afghan Project is a volunteer-based organization whose mission is to deliver a personalized afghan to every foster child in Massachusetts. To date, The Afghan Project has gifted the Massachusetts Department of Social Services with more than 7,000 afghans, each one embroidered with the name of a specific foster child.

"We do all of this anonymously and are only known by our first names," Mills says. "We feel that this is an important part of giving."

The Afghan Project's 1,000 volunteers, men and women, range in age from 3 to 94. Volunteers make squares or entire afghans, assemble squares, embroider names, or personalize gift bags for delivery. At least two volunteers are severely visually impaired. "Lori F. is a member of the Bryn Mawr College staff who sends us beautiful work," Mills adds.

Often during the school year Mills visits elementary schools, encouraging students to write poems for the recipients and decorate the gift bags. "We often find heartfelt and touching child-to-child messages from the elementary school child to the foster child in the gift bags," she says. In one school, a student approached Mills toward the end of her visit and said in a tiny voice, "I was once a foster child and I was sad, but now I have a family and I'm happy."

Mills also pays monthly visits to assisted living facilities, nursing homes, senior centers, churches, synagogues, and libraries. The work is especially appealing to senior citizens who find that busying their fingers increases their sense of goodwill and allows them to do something productive and positive. The Afghan Project has enabled some senior citizens to visit schools and teach children how to knit and crochet.

As a result of another outreach, the inmates at MCI-Framingham, a medium-security correctional facility for women, donated 100 crocheted afghans to the project (knitting needles are not allowed in prison).

The Afghan Project has become Mills' full-time unpaid job as she spreads its mission to other parts of the country. "It is wonderfully fulfilling and rewarding, knowing that in our small way we are doing something comforting to children in need," she says. "When I started doing this five years ago, I had no idea it would take over and become my life's work."

Mills admits that she knitted her way through Bryn Mawr. "Although knitting was fairly common at the time, one of my professors requested that I either give up knitting my argyle socks in his class or give up his class," she says. "I chose the former."

The Afghan Project is always in need of washable, four-ply acrylic yarn in bright colors; large, size #10 1/2 knitting needles; crochet hooks; knitted or crocheted afghans of any size; or six-inch knitted or crocheted squares. For information on how to participate, see www.afghanproject.org

Sandy Rosenblum Mills '61 with items donated to foster children through The Afghan Project.

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