On April 9, a small group of friends gathered at Kimberly Creasey’s home in Joliet to make 23 sleeping bags out of expired surgical sheets for Ukrainians, a project most of them didn’t have. undertaken.
But New Lenox’s Sarah Aimaro said it best: “We all have a common thread.”
This thread was their desire to help. And woven into that desire was a chain of people who each played a significant role in the project.
The first was Kayla Motto of New Lenox. She has a friend who works in healthcare and often donates expired surgical drapes to veterinary clinics and animal rescues.
Aimaro said Motto put her in touch with some of the curtains to donate to a group that was sending diapers and hygiene supplies to Ukraine. Aimaro’s son, Greg Aimaro, lived in Ukraine until February and continues to help where he can.
Around the same time, Motto heard about a Facebook group – the Blue Wrap Project – that was turning these curtains into sleeping bags for the homeless. Because Motto knew how Sarah and Greg were helping Ukrainians, Motto figured she might make some sleeping bags to send there.
“I can sew and it looked really easy,” Motto said.
So Motto contacted his good friend Cathy Erickson from Mokena, who also knows how to sew. Erickson made six sleeping bags.
“She just gave me the instructions and the materials,” Erickson said. “And I left.”
Like Motto and Aimaro, Erickson wanted to help the Ukrainians.
“It was an opportunity to be able to give in a different creative way and I took it,” she said.
Erickson said the sleeping bags weren’t difficult to make. The hardest part was working with the big heavy equipment. Motto said the bags also require a lot of preparation. The surgical drapes, which Creasey described as “rubberized paper,” are packed in large bags, wadded up and “all taped over,” Motto said.
“I can do one in two hours from start to finish. That’s a lot of time,” Motto said. “But when you work as a team, it goes much faster.”
So when Creasey, who also knows Aimaro, heard what Motto and Erickson were up to, she suggested getting people together at her house to work on the bags like an assembly line.
Creasey then mentioned the project to Casey O’Connell Lorance, Recreation Coordinator at the Joliet Park District Multipurpose Center and Creasey’s supervisor at the Park District. Creasey said Lorance lent them a table and would give the group a room in May when they meet for another day of sewing.
Lorance ignored all the praise for her efforts.
“We really wanted to help out in any way we could,” Lorance said. “They definitely do all the hard work.”
So when the group reunited, Greg and Creasey’s son, Michael Creasey, prepared the fabric; Motto taught the process and pinned the fabric for sewing for those who knew how. Sarah and her husband, Arthur, helped, and Kimberly’s husband, Jay, cooked dinner for the group, Sarah said.
“We did this for six hours,” Sarah said. “We just got the sleeping bags out.”
Greg said they made 23 bags, some for kids and some for adults.
“They’re waterproof and good at containing heat,” Aimaro said. “They’re really, really durable.”
Kimberly said the group also sewed pockets so people could sleep with their money clips and phones nearby without fear of someone stealing them, she said. She is looking forward to making more sleeping bags in May.
“Everyone wants to keep going,” Creasey said. “It is as therapeutic for us as it is for the Ukrainian people to receive these things. It makes us feel like we have resources to help us. The role we play is minimal, a drop in the ocean compared to what they need. But it is useful, relevant.
Sarah also said she is looking forward to the next gathering.
“I feel so helpless and it’s been so hard,” she said. “Just being able to do anything is great”
The 23 bags were dropped off at F45 Training in Frankfurt, which is working with Help Heroes of Ukraine at Carol Stream to transport supplies to Poland, said Matt Banbhak, studio manager for F45 Training in Frankfurt.
Banbhak said people donated gift cards, food, diapers, medical supplies, prayer cards, rosaries, coloring books, crayons and more. But F45 Training in Frankfurt does not accept clothes, he said.
He said to call before you drop things off. In some cases, Banbhak and his team collect the items from donors’ homes, especially when the donors are elderly.
“I have a whole team of trainers who can pick up the boxes,” Banbhak said.
Creasey said her crew buy their own white quilt thread, straight pins and rubber band for sleeping bags. But Creasey said the group would gratefully accept donations of those three items if people wanted to help.
For more information on the exact materials to purchase and to arrange pick up or drop off, email Creasey at [email protected]
To donate items to Ukraine, call F45 Training in Frankfurt at 630-272-7151 or email [email protected]