By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
GREENVILLE — Greenville has the county’s veterans covered — literally.
Volunteers from American Legion Post 291, Girl Scout Troop 5503, the Greenville Central School District and the Legion’s Auxiliary teamed up to make 65 no-sew blankets that were scheduled to be delivered to veterans living in Greene County nursing homes two days before Veterans Day.
The project was the brainchild of Will VonAtzingen, a Greenville town councilman and member of the Sons of the American Legion.
“I went out and applied for a grant a couple of months back and worked with the local school, Student Council and National Honor Society, and Girl Scouts, making no-sew blankets,” VonAtzingen said. “Our local American Legion Post 291 and the Sons of the American Legion hosted a few workshops and got younger Sons of the American Legion members involved making the blankets, too.”
The blankets have — what else? — patriotic themes.
“They are all patriotic — red, white and blue, and camouflage prints,” VonAtzingen said.
The group worked with Michelle Black, from the county’s Veterans Services department, to identify veterans at nursing homes in the county so each can be given a blanket.
The project drew volunteers from all quarters of the community.
“We had kids from the age of 5 or 6 help tie and make them, and we had people in their 70s, make them over the course of the past couple of weeks,” VonAtzingen said. “I tried to get kids involved from the school to volunteer, and since it is for veterans, we’ve had a number from the Legion working on them, too. It’s been a real community experience.”
All told, about 60 people volunteered for the project.
Each blanket is 72-inches by 56-inches before they are assembled.
“A no-sew blanket is essentially two pieces of felt that you lay on top of each other,” he explained. “You take a 5-inch square at each corner and you discard it, and then you cut 1-inch strips and double knot them so the ends are like tassels.”
VonAtzingen spearheaded the project and acquired the funding to pay for the materials.
“I personally wrote a grant through a life insurance policy that I hold — I do a couple of these a year,” he said. “I am eligible to write up to three $2,000 grants a year for community involvement, so the funds came from them.”
VonAtzingen organized a similar project several months ago when he got a grant to pay for hygiene kits, which volunteers from the Legion and the community at large put together and were distributed to veterans at the VA in Albany.
He also organized a no-sew blanket project a few years ago, and those were distributed to the local food pantry and families in need.
“This time I had the veterans in mind, and I wanted to do something Greene County-specific,” VonAtzingen said. “Both of my grandfathers were veterans and any time they went into the hospital, they came out with a blanket or an afghan or some little token of appreciation for their service, and they loved them. It was something nice for my family, so I wanted to pay it forward.”
Past Commander Don Savino at American Legion Post 291 said VonAtzingen has done similar projects in the past and Legion members were happy to support them.
“We don’t want veterans to be forgotten,” Savino said. “We want to thank them for their service and let them know that they are in our thoughts and prayers.”
Girl Scout Troop 5503 Co-Leader Aileen Rauf said Savino is a family friend and when he reached out to see if the troop wanted to help with the project, they were all in.
“We are always looking to help the community,” Rauf said. “We have had different events at the American Legion so when we heard the Legion was asking for some help, it was a no-brainer — we immediately wanted to help out. We love our veterans, so we jumped on board.”
The girls worked with American Legion member Maureen Bennett to learn how to assemble the no-sew blankets and completed six in an hour and a half, and had fun doing it, Rauf said.
“It was a great experience for the girls,” she said. “They really understood the project well and when we explained it to them, they were really excited. Some of them were asking if they would be able to actually give them to the veterans. We participate in Memorial Day and any of the activities and events that the American Legion puts on, we are always there. We try to explain to the girls about patriotism and the importance of supporting veterans.”