URBANA — If you can knit or crochet a 6-inch square, and have a little time to spare, you can help warm a needy child in South Africa.
Already about 10,000 of these hand-knitted or crocheted squares have been made and donated through the SNUGGLES project and have been turned into blankets for needy children in the townships of Johannesburg, says the organization's founder, Jennifer Millay of Bloomington.
But the need for more remains vast, she says.
Children kept in crude day care centers, often without heat and running water, sleep on cold dirt floors, she said.
"My dream is to get enough people involved in the community that we get a constant flow of squares, so no child goes without a blanket," she says.
SNUGGLES — Supporting Needs of the Underprivileged through Generous Gifts of Love in Every Stitch — plans to hold a Stitch-a-Thon at 3 p.m.. Oct. 14 at the Bible Education Center in Lincoln Square to make more blanket squares.
Everyone who can knit or crochet — or who is willing to learn at the event — is invited to attend.
Millay and her sister and brother-in-law, Dana and Ray Pratt of DeLand, are all involved with the Bible Education Center, where Ray Pratt is the director and his wife and Millay are volunteers.
They made their first trip to South Africa two years ago through a church foundation-sponsored trip, and helped make improvements to day care centers that lacked the basic amenities taken for granted in the U.S. — toys, utilities, furnishings, floors, even blankets.
The children come from the poorest of poor families, Dana Pratt said.
"You can imagine the health of a small child and how that can be affected by having a blanket to wrap around them," she said.
About six weeks ago, on a second trip, the two sisters returned with six suitcases full of blanket squares.
They weren't just made in central Illinois, but by people all over the U.S. and Canada, Dana Pratt says.
They're easier to transport in squares, rather than assembled, the sisters say, and the women who run the day care centers make beautiful designs out of them for the children.
The more squares they can provide, the more the day care operators can use, Dana Pratt and Millay say.
"I have a love of God and I see the hand of God working in the community there," Millay says.
And it provides the blanket-square makers a sense of purpose, too, she and her sister say.
Dana Pratt says the SNUGGLES project is an outlet for helping others to heal —something so many people are looking for.
"The idea is, we live very insulated lives in North America. We want to help, but won't know how to help."
It takes about 40 squares to make a full-size blanket, or about 20 squares to cover a baby, but the blanket size is up to the women making the blankets, Millay said.
Anyone coming to the Stitch-a-Thon can bring their own needles, hooks and yarn if they like. Yarn, needles and hooks will also be provided.
The SNUGGLES project also accepts donations of yarn and suitcases to transport blanket squares at the Bible Education Center at Lincoln Square.
It is open from noon to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Call 367-2100 for more information.