Campus Ministry students make handmade-blankets for homeless

Lenora Ciabattari | staff writer. Jimmy Hindley (left) and Pat Donovan (right) help prepare the fabric for cutting. This is the first step in the blanket making process.

Lenora Ciabattari | staff writer

Nov. 11, 2021

As the temperature starts to drop, many begin appreciating the warm indoors – cozy sweaters, blankets and comforters. However, those experiencing homelessness throughout Pittsburgh don’t have that same luxury. 

Duquesne’s Campus Ministry has been taking things into their own hands to help keep those in need warm this season. 

On Sunday, students gathered in the Bayer Hall Rotunda to make fleece no-sew blankets for those experiencing homelessness in Pittsburgh. Working in groups of two, students were given fabric, scissors, templates and other materials to begin their blanket-making. Debbie Kostosky, a campus minister, is the coordinator of “All Hands for a Cause,” dedicated to performing good deeds for the homeless on the first Sunday of every month.  

As the students got started, Kostosky talked about the organization “A Light in my City,” a charity that supplies lanterns and flashlights to Pittsburgh’s homeless population. Kostosky and the campus ministry aim to do something similar, but this time, the unmet need they tried to satisfy was warmth.

Kostosky said there have been similar events this semester for the general purpose of helping the poor and the homeless. In September, students helped to make plastic yarn bedrolls for the homeless. Using plastic bags, Kostosky taught students how to cut them into strips to create yarn, eventually weaving them together to make “water repellent” bed rolls. 

“Many homeless would sleep on cardboard,” Kostosky said. 

Since cardboard absorbs water, the plastic bed rolls’ water repellent nature was particularly favorable when it came to rain or upcoming snow. It was also an efficient way to use plastic bags, rather than throwing them away. 

In October, members of the Saint Vincent De Paul Society helped harvest apples and make homemade apple sauce for local homeless shelters. These were just the beginning of the ministry’s mission to help the homeless. 

There were many students participating in Bayer Rotunda on Sunday. All students were working in pairs. One pair of Duquesne students, Mollie Gallagher and Ceilidh Wagner, worked together to make their blanket. 

“There is a handout that you can follow,” Gallagher said. 

Gallagher said she has had previous experience making blankets like these, but making them was not a difficult process. Kostosky was ready to help anyone who needed assistance and the handout was an efficient tool that most students used as they worked.  

Wagner was also able to describe the process, regarding the steps in preparing the fabric. 

“[First], you cut a square in the corner. Then you cut strips of two inches, and then tie them together…It’s like tying shoelaces,” Wagner said. 

All students in the room were able to quickly learn the process and asked for help when it was needed. Teamwork also helped many succeed.  

“Once everyone gets them done, we will donate to Saint Vincent De Paul…to [the] homeless in Pittsburgh,” Kostosky said. 

Students are encouraged to take their time making blankets, as there is not a set deadline. 

“Some people came and took them home [to make them],” Kostosky said. 

If any other student would like to make a blanket it’s not too late, according to Kostosky. Campus Ministry is available for those who would like to help, and materials for blanket-making can be retrieved from Kostosky, as well. Students can also get involved in other ways. 

“If anyone still wants to learn about plastic yarn, talk to me in Campus Ministry,” Kostosky said. 

The next event will occur on Dec. 5. Kostosky said Campus Ministry will continue programs like this on the first Sunday of February.