ITHACA, N.Y. –– Cayuga Medical Center (CMC) and some local sewing groups have teamed up to repurpose sterile wraps into winter blankets for those in need.

CMC has implemented a “person-centered care” model, with what are called planetree committees designed to organize community projects. The idea for the recycled blankets became the project of one of the said committees in the fall of 2019.

“One of our staff members forwarded me a link to a hospital in Orlando that was already making these blankets,” said Deanna Jacobs, a member of one of the planetree committees, and the project creator. “I knew I would have to make some tweaks since this is not Orlando.” 

The sterile wraps are used in the hospital to wrap surgical equipment trays, and are discarded as medical waste. The material is waterproof and fairly well-insulated.

A prototype was created at CMC, then tested to see how it would hold up for people sleeping outside.

“We poured water on it, froze it,” Jacobs said. “We actually had someone sleep under the material and it was super hot, super warm and water-resistant.”

CMC has teamed up with a local sewing group that meets on Tuesdays at Quilter’s Corner, to make the majority of the blankets. The group is called the ‘Sew Givers’ and they’ve been participating in charity sewing projects for the past five years.

“Part of our makeup here at Quilter’s Corner is that not only do we sell products and teach people a lot of different things, but we also want to give back to our community,” said Linda Vannederynen, owner of Quilter’s Corner and founder of the Sew Givers.

Sew Givers have worked with various organizations over the years, including making doll clothes for children at the methodist church, making blankets for pre-k programs, napkins for the Farmer’s Market, placemats for hospice, quilts for the Red Cross and wheelchair covers for the elderly.

One of the Sew Givers, Jayne Port, said her favorite project was sewing pillowcases for kids in foster care.

“They have something that’s really theirs, and something to put their stuff in besides a garbage bag when they have to move from one home to another,” Port said.

So far 25 blankets have been distributed through the planetree committee. More are being sewed by Quilter’s Corner, a sewing group based in Newfield and by individuals who have taken home kits from the hospital that include all the materials needed to make a blanket. The blankets have been given to law enforcement agencies to hand out, as well as the St. John’s homeless shelter.

Autumn Miller said, a shift leader at St. John’s, said that having the blankets there to hand out will make a big difference for those sleeping outside.

“Some can’t come into the shelter for other circumstances, some choose to stay out there,” Miller said. “This keeps them warm and dry.”

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com