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If you have been on the roads lately or anywhere near a shopping mall, you have likely noticed the number of last-minute shoppers and large crowds.  This isn’t the case for Carol Leung, a long-time resident of Manatee County.  She loves Christmas and we are not referring to a commercialized version of Christmas.  Carol is retired and like many retired people on a fixed income, those big shopping days are behind her and where this story begins.  She is a special person and embodies the spirit of giving and worship that Christmas is really all about.  This Christmas story is about how she works all year to donate her homemade blankets to local charities like Solve Maternity Homes and Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.  

Carol spent her entire adult life caring for others as a nurse.  When she retired recently, she was able to pick back up on a hobby she enjoyed but simply didn’t have the time to do until now, sewing.  

One day, she sat down at her sewing machine because she wanted to do something special for her family.  She wanted to make each of her grandkids a Christmas blanket.  She enjoyed making them and the grandchildren enjoyed having them so Carol started researching to see if any places might want or need blankets like hers.  She found a few places but narrowed it down to All Children’s Hospital and Solve.

She handpicks various fabrics from JoAnn’s Fabrics based on what is on sale and what she believes children would like for various times of the year.  The patterns she chooses don’t just include holiday themes, they include prints of cartoon animals, tractors, sports, and much more.  

Earlier this month, Carol dropped off 56 blankets at All Children’s Hospital and several more at Solve.  She has made over 200 blankets since she started.  When asked how long it takes to make a blanket, she told us “It varies based on the size.  The infant blankets are smaller than the ones I make for teens.  It probably takes close to 4 days to complete one blanket.  I don’t make one start to finish.  Depending on the day, I’ll cut squares to prepare them, or sew some, or something else.  It’s more fun that way than just making one at a time.”  We did the math, 56 blankets times 4 days per blanket is 224 days which explains why on any given day, you will find her at home doing what she loves, sewing these blankets for children who need them.

A blanket that is made for a teen has as many as 150 squares plus the batting that goes inside.  She puts in a little extra batting when she knows they are going up north where it’s colder.  Recently, she had to get a new sewing machine because she “blew up the old sewing machine.  It just couldn’t handle it.  I have a bigger industrial sewing machine now.  It’s great!  It sounds like a truck when it’s going.”

Carol shared with us the joy she gets out of knowing some child someplace has one of her blankets and it’s giving that child comfort.  She said “These blankets create comfort.  When a child is given one, and they snuggle up in it, there is a trigger of comfort that occurs.  Much like when a kid gets a teddy bear.  They get attached and I imagine some will keep their blanket forever.”  She described it to us as a comfort zone.  “When they are in the hospital and alone at night, when they wrap up in one of these Nana blankets, they can get into a comfort zone.”  She was thrilled when she found out the children got to keep the blankets when they were well enough to leave the hospital.

When asked if she has plans on continuing this tradition, Carol answered immediately with a big yes and a smile in her voice.  She told us she has “over two years of material purchased.  I bought as much as I could when I could.  I only buy material when it’s on sale.  Unfortunately, the price has gone up so much, so I’m glad I have as much as I do now.  The price used to be around $2.50 per yard, but now it’s $2.99 per yard when it’s on sale and when it’s not, the material as much as $7.50 per yard.”

Over the last two years, she has developed a relationship with the staff at All Children’s Hospital. They remembered her from last year and look forward to seeing her again next year.  She is also developing her relationship with the staff at Solve and shared with us she plans on making burp bibs and possibly some buntings if she gets the pattern.

Editor’s note:  Nana is my mother-in-law and is truly one of the nicest, selfless, most giving person you will meet.  Sharing her story was an honor.  From our family to yours, we hope you have a very Merry Christmas.

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By Manatee Herald

Manatee Herald is a locally owned business dedicated to bringing local news on a variety of topics in an unbiased manner that is fair, balanced, and free. We will also include opinion content and hope it offers a different perspective for you to enjoy. Above all, we believe in responsible journalism bringing you fresh content that reflects our community.