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Bedrolls warm up winter for homeless in the community


Though the weather outside is frightful, Tina Smith, an administrative assistant in the psychology department, helps keep the local homeless population warm with her organization, Caring Quilts.

It began 10 years ago with a pattern for an "ugly quilt" from a craft magazine. Today, Smith and several others spend their Saturday mornings in the basement of the London United Methodist Church in Milan, sewing bedrolls that are distributed to local shelters. The group averages 10 bedrolls a week.
Tina Smith (left), an administrative assistant in the psychology department, makes bedrolls for homeless people along with Betty Guglielmotti. (Photo by Katie Gazella)

Smith describes the bedrolls as "a sleeping bag without a zipper." They are made from six foot by six foot pieces of heavy material, such as blankets or curtains, sewn to a sheet, and stuffed with thin blankets and sheets in place of traditional batting.

The bedrolls are "one thing I can do, keep them warm. I am not rich, so I can't give them money, but this is something I can do," Smith says.

The bedrolls also contain a bevy of surprises within their folds. "Once the bedroll is ready to be rolled up we put in a hat, scarf, pillow and goody bag containing personal hygiene products like soap, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, and shampoo. We also include a devotional guide," Smith says.

The finishing touch comes with two neckties tied around the bundle to form a handle.

The distinct design of the bedrolls, as well as the comfort they provide, are well known around the shelters that receive them. There are days Smith cannot even get inside the doors before the bedrolls have disappeared.

"I usually hear a lot of thank yous. They are really grateful to have them," Smith says.

Smith also has brought her organization to students on campus, working with the student group Knit Wits on occasion. Smith has taught students how to make bedrolls, which they distributed locally and during their alternative spring break in other communities.

The experience was a positive one, Smith says. "It made the students more aware of community service and how much they can do for their community with just a little bit of sewing," she says.

All of the materials used in the bedrolls come from donations. Two of Smith's aunts crochet most of the hats and scarves in the bundle, and Smith receives the linens left behind after student move-out. Another service group, Fairy God Parents, also donates materials to Caring Quilts.

For more information on Caring Quilts, contact Smith at tborso@umich.edu.

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