Nearly 100 Pioneer Valley High School students spent the last three weeks sewing and crafting pillows and tie blankets in preparation for an afternoon at the Good Samaritan homeless shelter in Santa Maria on Thursday.

The students from Jenn Montanez’s clothing and fashion classes, the Future Homemakers of America and Home Economics Related Occupation clubs donated 52 pillows and 28 tie blankets they have been learning to make since the beginning of the school year.

“You have to put a lot of work into these because you’re giving it to someone who deserves it,” said Jessica Rosas, a senior at Pioneer Valley. “It has to be perfect.”

Montanez explained that at the beginning of the school year, she asked her classes, “How can sewing give back to the community?”

It was decided that the clubs and the classes would create items to donate to the homeless in Santa Maria. They named it “The Pillow Project.”

On a tour of Good Samaritan facility, volunteer outreach coordinator David Bickham showed about 25 of the 100 students who participated in creating gifts the overflow shelter area, where trash bags full of items belonging to the homeless surrounded the perimeter of the room.

“These trash bags represent everything someone owns,” Bickham said. “So, a blanket and a pillow is huge.”

The students made sure the pillows and blankets they handcrafted would stay with the person who received it first, likening it to a stuffed animal that means a lot to the owner.

“Around this time of year, it gets cold,” said one student.

“We focus on children here. Our goal is to give every child here special care,” Bickham said.

He also said that in the years that he has been a part of Good Samaritan shelter, this is the first time he has seen a handmade donation of this scale.

“We’ve received blankets and pillows before, but I can’t think of anyone actually making pillows and blankets for them,” he said, adding that he was grateful for the donation.

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Junior Brenda Linares added, “There’s so much out there you can do. There’s so many ways to help people in need.”

Materials were donated by Beverley’s Fabric and Crafts of Santa Maria, and a discount was given by Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts for additional materials. Funds were made available by the clubs who participated in the Pillow Project.

At the point of donation, Montanez said she and many of the students teared up a bit because all of their hard work was paying off for something beneficial to the community.

“For these people to understand someone cares about them, and for us to know we did that, is a great feeling,” the teacher said. “It makes us appreciate what we have.”

Senior Karla Salazar spoke for the classes and clubs: “It makes us happy to know they’re grateful to have pillows and blankets.”

Krista Chandler covers education in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast News. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @KristasBeat. 

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