Blanket Approval: How Homeless Veterans Will Be Greeted in Grantville

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St. Therese Charities members in Del Cerro make baby blankets for the Naval Medical Center in Balboa Park. Photo by Chris Stone

By Chris Stone

When city officials plan homeless housing, residents aren’t always happy about the location – close to them. But a group of women are preparing a warm welcome for homeless veterans moving soon to Grantville: fleece blankets.

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“It’s really helping the community,” said San Diego Councilman Scott Sherman, who visited a St. Therese Charities project Wednesday in Del Cerro that has produced 90 blankets for upcoming occupants of a converted Motel 6, called ZEPHYR , by developer Affirmed Housing on Alvarado Canyon Road.

“They’re being part of the solution and not part of the problem,” Sherman said of the Zephyr project.

The District 7 councilman said that many times when solutions are suggested to try to deal with the city’s homeless population, including veterans, “people say, ‘We love the idea. Just don’t let it be in my neighborhood.’”

“These ladies heard that it was in their neighborhood and they jumped up, they volunteered, they’re making blankets for all of the homeless veterans who will be served at that facility. …. They’re saying welcome. They want to help.”

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Fleece blankets and knitted hats are prepared for the veterans and other needy groups. Photo by Chris Stonemore
San Diego Councilman Scott Sherman thanks the group for their work on behalf of veterans. Photo by Chris Stonemore
St. Therese Charities members in Del Cerro make baby blankets for the Naval Medical Center in Balboa Park. Photo by Chris Stonemore
San Diego Councilman Scott Sherman posed for a photo with group members. Photo by Chris Stonemore
Zephyr, an affordable housing project for veterans, is under construction in Grantville. Photo by Chris Stonemore
San Diego Councilman Scott Sherman chats with Sharon Dilloway about the blankets for veterans. Photo by Chris Stonemore
The group' latest project is making fleece baby blankets for the Naval Medical Center in Balboa Park. Photo by Chris Stonemore
Susana Rivera has learned to knit and crochet while creating items for donations. Photo by Chris Stonemore
The blankets for the veterans have the St. Therese Charities special label. Photo by Chris Stonemore
Zephyr, an affordable housing project for veterans, is under construction in Grantville. Photo by Chris Stonemore
St. Therese Charities member Leona Pesci holds a scarf she is crocheting. Photo by Chris Stonemore
Joyce Kuelbs, one of the original members of St. Therese Charities craft group, loves knitting items that are worthwhile for others. Photo by Chris Stonemore

The blankets — with male-oriented designs such as sports, fishing and nature — are tucked away in storage until the veterans move into their new housing in the winter. Some 84 units will shelter low-income and homeless veterans.

Artie Bates talks about her experiences with the group.

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“I can leave my house full of aches and pains and I get here and everybody is laughing and talking and sharing,” she said. “It’s absolutely wonderful.”

About 15 women meet for two hours each Wednesday morning to make blankets, and knit and crochet hats, booties, scarves and lap quilts — and share some fellowship.

Their soft gifts, with a “Wrapped in Love” label, have benefited the Ronald McDonald House, the Salvation Army Door of Hope, Catholic Charities Immigration Service, the Trinitarian Sisters Orphanage in Tecate, the Alpha Project Tent City and the Military YMCA at the Naval Medical Center.

“To give as much as we have, I think, is utterly amazing,” Bates said.

All materials for the handmade items are purchased through parishioner donations to St. Therese Charities — an arm of St. Therese Catholic Church — and through member donations.

Even after sales and coupons. the adult blankets consist of four yards of fleece and cost about $20 for materials, said Sharon Dilloway, who shops for bargains.

Originally the group was allied with St. Vincent de Paul, but later narrowed its focus to parish needs around St. Therese Catholic Church, said Joyce Kuelbs, one of the oldest members.

At that time, many men joined the ladies and helped parishioners with handywork at the residences.

Later the male members died or dropped out and the group became busy with helping fellow churchgoers with money for rent and utilities.

Now all female, the group is a gathering for people who want to help and seek a sense of community.

Not all members are St. Therese, and not all are Catholic. They welcome anyone who wants to join to do a craft or just socialize in the church’s social center lounge.

During their two-hour sessions, they can cut out three to four adult blankets or five to six baby blankets.

The baby blankets are their latest effort — destined to keep an infant warm at the former Balboa Naval Hospital.

“I love it. Everyone is a jewel,” said member Susana Rivera. She joined the group not knowing how to knit or crochet, but she learned from other members and has knitted three hats.

Kuelbs said: “It’s nice to know that someone is getting some good out of it … It
makes you feel in your heart that you are doing something worthwhile.”

Councilman Sherman expressed appreciation for the work being done for veterans.

“For us to say thank you (to veterans) goes a long way for them,” he said. “They need to know that we care.”

He addressed the group of about 15 women: “Bless you all for doing this. You have the eternal gratitude of my office for doing this.”

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