Joyce Janssen started making quilts as a child at home. Now she has been making quilts for the children at Yankton’s Head Start for the past seven years.
“I felt my mission was to make quilts for children,” Janssen said.
She asked Michelle Muller, Day Care Program director/nutrition coordinator for Head Start, if she knew of children who would need quilts.
That started the partnership in 2009. Muller took the idea of Janssen’s quilts to the Head Start management meeting, which included area managers, the fiscal manager and the executive director. They felt giving the quilts at the annual conference would be an excellent idea.
Janssen’s family joined the effort. Her daughters, Janet and Jolene, helped with the cost and choosing of the fabrics. The staff and the staff association with Head Start had also donated funds.
Each year the material was purchased during Black Friday in Sioux Falls at $2.50 per yard, and each quilt uses four yards. The batting takes two yards per quilt, and a roll has enough for 20 quilts. The total cost per quilts is $20 on average if the fabric and batting can be purchased when on sale.
“As you can see, this is not an inexpensive project or mission,” Muller said.
Over seven years, Janssen has created and given away approximately 245 quilts. Each handmade quilt has its own design. The fabric is chosen with young children in mind, with bright colors and prints for the quilt top and coordinating solids for the backs. Flannel is the material of choice because it is warm and inviting and wears well.
“My 3-year-old daughter has loved her quilt,” says one of the parents of Head Start.
The first year Janssen had provided 15 quilts. With more than 30 volunteers eligible for a quilt, it was decided to have a drawing. After the conference and quilt give-away, Janssen and “posse” were leaving. A young boy seemed upset and told his mother that he didn’t get the quilt he wanted. His mother informed him that he’d have to wait and hope he’d receive the one he wanted next year. Upon hearing that, Janssen determined she’d have enough quilts for all the children at future conferences. This is how the project blossomed to 30 quilts or more each year after.
Janssen remembers a young mother so excited to receive a quilt she flew into her arms to give her a big hug. Janssen said that was the best thank you of all, knowing the quilt brought that much excitement and pleasure to that family.
This was the last year Janssen could make quilts. The project has brought a lot of joy and satisfaction to her, but the cost is prohibitive. She still wants to keep busy but will find a new project to take on.
The federally-funded Head Start program leads the nation in early childhood care and education. They promote school readiness through social development by providing education, health, nutrition, social and family support services. Ninety percent of the children enrolled must meet federal poverty guidelines, while 10 percent of enrollment must be available to children with disabilities.
“We at Head Start have had the blessing of such a commitment from a community volunteer,” Muller said. “It has brought excitement to the Volunteer Conference for the Head Start parents and children and a feeling of community to everyone involved. We can’t thank Joyce enough for her time, efforts and love that she has put into each quilt and we wish her the best going forward.”