Academy of Our Lady blankets homeless with love

Lectures alone cannot begin to convey the struggles the homeless encounter every day on the streets of New Orleans.

But when classroom teaching is applied to a service activity, students really start connecting the dots.

“We shouldn’t take things for granted,” said Amber Dang, an Academy of Our Lady senior who spent much of the fall semester with her classmates sewing nearly 60 cozy fleece blankets for the homeless and hungry served by the St. Jude Community Center on Rampart Street.

“(Like the homeless), I learned to be careful, responsible and patient,” said Erica Rossi, a freshman, of the blanket-making process.

Students at the Marrero high school have been making blankets for St. Jude for the last several years, defraying the cost of materials through a service-learning grant from the Joe and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation.

“Each blanket involves about six to seven weeks (of class time),” said Cynthia Guidry, who taught the craft as part of Academy of Our Lady’s Family and Consumer Sciences elective.

After picking the fabric of their choice from bolts provided by their teacher, students crafted the yardage into finished blankets with the help of three classroom tools: a sewing machine, a sewing ruler and a rotary cutter, the latter deployed like a pizza cutter to cut the fringe.

Immersed in service-learning

“They were required to sew at least two straight seams and to sew on at least three buttons,” said Guidry, who graded her students for their blanket-making and fulfilled the project’s service-learning requirement by having students research organizations dedicated to the alleviation of hunger and homelessness.

Math skills also were called on, with students measuring their blanket’s top flap, the length and width of their fringe and the space between their decorative buttons.

The blankets – the finished dimensions of each a generous 60-by-60 inches – were delivered to St. Jude by their teenage makers on Nov. 19.

“There is a lot of tender loving care that goes into making these blankets. The students are always striving to improve their workmanship,” said Guidry, as her students ripped out wayward seams and started over.

“They’re really being meticulous about it,” Guidry said. “Some of these girls didn’t even know how to thread a needle – so we’re incorporating survival skills. When they’re on their own, they’ll know how to sew on buttons and repair a torn hem.”

Reminder of God’s grace

Freshman Lauren Weaver said the project gave her an opportunity to “walk in the shoes” of the homeless and hungry.

“I’ve learned that I’m not as thankful as much as I should be,” Weaver said. “I also learned that it’s actually fun serving the community just by giving a little time.”

Guidry said the project gave her “goose bumps.”

“It does the heart so well to know that we’re bringing a little bit of warmth and a little bit of coziness to the homeless of the city,” she said.

To learn more about the outreach ministries of the St. Jude Community Center, located in Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, visit

Beth Donze can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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