Blankets made by Stanford staffers going to COVID-19 patients

A group of Stanford staffers and retirees hope the handmade flannel blankets they are making will bring cheer and comfort to COVID-19 patients.

Over the last decade, a sewing circle consisting of Stanford staff and retirees has donated more than 3,000 baby blankets to the Women’s Health Center at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center.

Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain

Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain, associate vice provost for administration in Student Affairs, and a member of a sewing circle consisting of active and retired Stanford employees. (Image credit: Courtesy Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain)

The community hospital, which provides care for the most vulnerable and marginalized populations of San Francisco, tucked the handmade blankets – made in cheery flannel prints – into care packages for new parents.

At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the hospital stopped accepting donations of any kind, except for critical personal protective equipment for staff members working with patients who had contracted COVID-19.

Recently, the sewing circle received permission to resume donating the blankets – which are sterilized and individually packed in sealed bags – with the help of Sojourn Chaplaincy.

The chaplaincy offers spiritual care and emotional support to patients at the hospital, which provides world-class care to the people of San Francisco, regardless of their ability to pay or immigration status.

“For the time being, we will give the blankets to hospital staff to give to COVID-19 patients, who aren’t allowed to have visitors – if they even have anyone in their lives who would visit,” said David Stickley, Sojourn’s administrative coordinator and an ordained Episcopal deacon in the Diocese of California.

“The blankets are a small, soft cheerful gift that patients can hold onto and know that someone is thinking of them. They offer a comforting presence. Adults love these blankets and treasure the cheerfulness that they bring.”

Stickley said caring for COVID-19 patients not only requires heroic efforts on the part of hospital staff, but also requires help from the community.

“It is truly a group effort,” he said. “Every community member who contributes to caring for COVID-19 patients in any way is valued beyond price.”

Margaret Dyer-Chamberlain, the associate vice provost for administration in Student Affairs, a member of the sewing circle and a deacon in the Episcopal Church, said donating the blankets to COVID-19 patients has given new meaning to the work of the group, which consists of active and retired staffers from Student Affairs, Financial Aid and Land, Buildings and Real Estate.

“We hope that giving COVD-19 patients something homemade – something made with love – will show them that they are cared about by more people than they could imagine,” she said.

The sewing circle used to meet on campus to make blankets, toting thread, fabric, scissors and portable sewing machines to various locations. Now they are making blankets at home while sheltering in place.

Last week, in keeping with social distancing rules, Dyer-Chamberlain left a bundle of blankets on the doorstep of her San Francisco home for Stickley to pick up and deliver to the hospital.

Each blanket included a heartfelt hand-written note: “With love from the sewing circle – Cynthia, Joan, Lee, Margaret, Margaret Ann, Sandy.”