fbpx Inspiring Generational Giving
Authored by Nexus Family Healing on December 2, 2022

In 2020, Sharon, a resident of Buffalo, MN, came across a WCCO news story highlighting Nexus Family Healing’s need for small suitcases and duffle bags for youth in foster care. What may seem like an uncommon donation request, youth in our care often go to and from home, residential treatment, and foster families without proper luggage to pack their belongings. Realizing that the donation site was in an accessible location within her own town, Sharon headed down to her basement storage and went through the duffel bags she no longer needed. After that, she went online and purchased some more duffel bags to donate and gave a cash gift as well. 

After her donations, Nexus Family Healing reached out to Sharon to thank her for her gifts. Sharon, who would donate her time at the Cancer Treatment Center in Buffalo, MN, asked Nexus if they needed any volunteers. At the time, there wasn’t a specific need for volunteers, but the Foundation team let Sharon know that some folks had been making blankets, specifically tie blankets — a special, no sew type of blanket where you take two pieces of fleece blanket material and tie the ends together to create a warm blanket (to learn more about how make these blankets, click here).

Why blankets? Think about your favorite stuffed animal, blankie, or other comfort object from your childhood. Many of the youths who enter foster care, or a residential facility, come with only clothes on their backs — no extra clothes, shoes, books, toys, or even a warm, comforting item like a blanket. 

Inspired, Sharon went ahead and bought the materials and started making blankets. She eventually let others know about the need and how to make the blankets, including Jane, her friend of over two decades in New Hope, MN, who was looking for some new volunteer opportunities. 

“It was last spring, and she had told me how she was tying blankets,” Jane said, “I didn’t know too much about it the first time we tied, but she sent me more information about it, and I said, ‘Well this works for me, I can do this at home, this is wonderful’!” 

Jane now spends her summers making blankets: last year she made fifty-five blankets, and this year she is projected to make seventy. 

“I didn’t know much about Nexus at the time,” Jane said, “but it was kids in need, and they wanted these blankets for when the youths enter the programs, so that they would have a cozy item to greet them with…I knew I could it.”

Sharon's grandkids showcasing off the tie blankets they made for Nexus Family Healing youth

A grandmother to twelve grandchildren, Sharon has been engaging her younger grandchildren (now mostly teens) to assist with blanket making. When they come over to spend a weekend with her, she lets them pick out the material and help make them, and then she donates them to the youths at Nexus-Gerard, Nexus-Kindred, Nexus-Mille Lacs’ Willow Trails Group Home, and Aspen House.

Another way Sharon has helped provide warm and comforting items for children is by keeping an eye out for coats on sale, especially in the springtime, and donating the coats to local coat drives often held in the fall/winter. After connecting with Nexus, Sharon wondered if they could use warm items for the youths. 

“My grandkids and I will go and stay at a hotel in Edina for the weekend,” Sharon said, “go out to dinner and shop. We were at a local sporting goods store, and we noticed they had all these coats on sale. I suggested, why not pick out some coats for the foster kids. We had to pick out the right sizes and colors, and we had fun doing it.” 

Now each spring, Sharon and her grandchildren scour sales racks for winter coats, purchasing dozens of various sizes, which she donates in the fall. The first year, Sharon donated twenty coats, and this year she has donated around fifty. 

“I want my grandchildren to know that it’s fun giving to others. I let them pick it out and give them a price range."

Sharon with two of her grandkids making a day of their giving activities

Sharon is an example of how someone can take small but intentional actions to help those in need, and how approaching giving with an entrepreneurial spirit can inspire others to act. She’s even gotten some of the neighborhood kids enlisted to start making blankets, as well as another local volunteer group. She even inspired her hairstylist to donate hats and mittens, after telling her about buying coats with her grandchildren. 

Not only is Sharon contributing multiple, highly needed items of warmth and comfort for youths, but she is sharing the joy of helping others with her grandchildren as well, encouraging the next generation to continue a tradition of giving.

“I want my grandchildren to know that it’s fun giving to others. I let them pick it out and give them a price range." 

- Sharon