Grad Returns to School … This Time with Blankets

Jeanne Wendt plays with preschooler Ezequiel Gutierrez

While clutching a class picture from school year 1955-1956, Jeanne Wendt leaned over to speak to a preschooler who was stretched out on her nap-time cot. A handmade blanket covered the little girl.

“That’s me in kindergarten,” she told preschooler Kiersten Groth, who responded with a giggle.

After sewing and donating 160 blankets to the school, Wendt came to see them put to use. She visited students in teacher Kristen Seabert’s Great Start Readiness Preschool (GSRP) all-day program in the Kelloggsville Early Childhood Center. (GSRP is a state-funded free preschool program for students who qualify.)

Jeanne Wendt meets preschooler Kiersten Groth, who snuggles with a blanket made by Wendt

Wendt, a 1968 Kelloggsville graduate, walked the halls of the ECC as a youngster when it was an elementary school. She said she’s been sewing for 30 years, and made the blankets from squares of material, then adding flannel backs and filling.

Each of the school’s 144 preschoolers in nine GSRP programs received their own blanket. “Now they have a nice comfortable quilt to snuggle with,” said Kim Stevens, preschool director.

Wendt, a retired legal secretary, once made 650 blankets for students at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, in Grand Rapids Public Schools. She makes 50 each month for patients at Forest View Psychiatric Hospital, in Grand Rapids. “It just warms my heart,” Wendt said about making blankets to donate to people. “Everybody asks, ‘Why do you do it?’ I say, ‘Why not?”

“It’s about giving back,” she said.

She sews in a room in her house that’s packed with materials, most of which is donated for blanket-making. A friend donated the fabric for the ECC blankets. She gets together weekly with friends who tie the quilts.

Seabert said the blankets are a great gift for her students. “It’s so nice that the kids don’t have to bring a blanket back and forth with them, and it’s nice because some of the kids don’t have them.”

Preschooler Leah Stoykovich hugs her blanket
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio


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