On April 9, a small group of friends met at Kimberly Creasey’s Joliet home to make 23 sleeping bags out of expired surgical drapes for people in Ukraine, a project most of them hadn’t tackled.
But Sarah Aimaro of New Lenox said it best: “We all have a common thread.”
That thread was their desire to help. And woven into that desire was a string of people who each played an important role in the project.
The first was Kayla Motto of New Lenox. She has a friend who works in health care who often donates expired surgical drapes to veterinary clinics and animal rescues.
Aimaro said Motto connected her with some of the drapes to give to a group that was sending diapers and hygiene supplies to Ukraine. Aimaro’s son, Greg Aimaro, had lived in the Ukraine until February and continues to help where he can.
Around the same time, Motto learned of a Facebook group – the Blue Wrap Project – that turned these drapes into sleeping bags for the homeless. Because Motto knew how Sarah and Greg were helping people from Ukraine, Motto thought maybe she could make some sleeping bags to send there.
“I can sew and this looked really easy,” Motto said.
So Motto contacted her good friend Cathy Erickson of Mokena, who also knows how to sew. Erickson made six sleeping bags.
“She just gave me the instructions and the material,” Erickson said. “And off I went.”
Like Motto and Aimaro, Erickson wanted to help the people from Ukraine.
“This was an opportunity to be able to give in a different creative way and I took it,” she said.
Erickson said the sleeping bags were not difficult to make. The hard part was working with the large, heavy material. Motto said the bags require a lot of prepping, too. The surgical drapes, which Creasey described as “rubberized paper,” come stuffed into big bags, wadded and “all smooshed with tape,” 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 with a team, it goes a lot quicker.”
So when Creasey, who also knows Aimaro, heard what Motto and Erickson were doing, 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 will give the group a room in May when it reconvenes for another day of sewing.
Lorance shrugged off any praise for her efforts.
“We definitely wanted to help in any way we can,” Lorance. “They’re definitely doing all the hard work.”
So when the group gathered, 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, made dinner for the group, Sarah said.
“We did this for six hours,” Sarah said. “We just cranked out the sleeping bags.”
Greg said they made 23 bags, some for children and some for adults.
“They’re waterproof and also 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 close to them without fear someone might steal them, she said. She’s looking forward to making more sleeping bags in May.
“Everyone wants to keep going,” Creasey said. “It’s as therapeutic for us as it is for the Ukrainian people to receive these things. It makes us feel as if we have some resources to help. The part we play is minimal, a drop in the bucket compared to what they need. But it’s purposeful, relevant.”
Sarah, too, said she is looking forward to the next gathering.
“I feel so helpless and it’s been so hard,” she said. “Just to be able to do anything is great,”
The 23 bags were dropped off at F45 Training in Frankfort, which is working with Help Heroes of Ukraine in Carol Stream to fly supplies to Poland, said Matt Banbhak, studio manager of F45 Training in Frankfort.
Banbhak said people have donated gift cards, food, diapers, medical supplies, prayer cards, rosaries, coloring books, crayons and more. But F45 Training in Frankfort is not accepting clothes, he said.
He said to call first before dropping items off. In some cases, Banbhak and his crew will collect the items from donors’ homes, especially when the donors are elderly.
“I have a whole staff of trainers who are able to pick the boxes up,” Banbhak said.
Creasey said her crew is buying their own white quilting thread, straight pins and elastic for the sleeping bags. But Creasey said the group will gratefully accept donations of those three items if people want to help.
For information on the exact materials to buy and to arrange pick up or drop off, email Creasey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To donate items toUkraine, call F45 Training in Frankfort at 630-272-7151 or email email@example.com.