Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Turning T-Shirts into Quilts to Warm Homeless

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Turning T-Shirts into Quilts to Warm Homeless

Article excerpt

Griffin Kerstetter was in the car with her mother listening to the State of Union address when she started asking questions about unemployment. Annie Yonas was reading a book about people walking in the street when she started wondering about homelessness.

Efforts by the parents of both girls to help them understand the problems of those living in poverty have led to the Home Lost Project, which turns discarded T-shirts into blankets for the homeless.

For their work on the project, fourth-graders Griffin and Annie are among the regional finalists for Most Outstanding Volunteer with the local Jefferson Awards for Public Service program, which has awarded excellence in volunteerism nationally since 1972.

The girls -- longtime friends -- independently started asking questions about homelessness two years ago, when they were in second grade at O'Hara Elementary School.

Their parents arranged for them to meet with Adrienne Walnoha, the executive director of Community Human Services, which provides various services to the homeless. As the girls brainstormed ways to help, an idea was born.

"I wanted to do teddy bears, but Adrienne said that they were easier to lose and didn't keep you warm," said Annie, 9, of O'Hara. "Quilts were easier to keep and kept you warm."

And so the quilt project began, using a surplus of T-shirts that either they had outgrown or their parents had accumulated. To expand the project, they started asking for T-shirt donations. And every year since the project began they've spoken to other classes at O'Hara, telling students about homelessness and asking for T- shirts.

With the sewing help of Griffin's grandmother, Jane Burke, they made the T-shirts into warm quilts. The girls help with cutting and sometimes ironing the squares, and then hand the quilts off to grown- ups -- either Ms. Burke or volunteers at sew-ins -- to complete the quilts. Griffin is now learning to sew but has yet to tackle a quilt.

It was at one of those sew-ins that Bob Nelkin, president of the United Way of Allegheny County, ran across Annie and Griffin.

"The girls' empathy for people who they don't know who were struggling to have a roof over their head was really commendable," Mr. …

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