SLEEP BAGS 004
Keystone College students turned out to Brooks Theater to assemble quilts for the homeless as part of My Brothers’ Keeper’s annual MLK Day of Service activities. From left, Katelyn Osborne, Amanda Nhem, Jackie Crozier, and Jesus Herrera, son of a volunteer. STAFF PHOTO/MICHAEL WINTERMUTE
BY MICHAEL WINTERMUTE
Wyoming County Press Examiner
In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, a local grassroots organization headed to Keystone College to recruit a few extra hands.
My Brothers’ Keeper, a Hop Bottom-based group which makes quilt packages for homeless people, recruited about 50 college students throughout the day Monday to assist in the volunteer quilt-sewing process.
By the end of the day, the collaborative efforts resulted in 30 sleeping bags, which were coupled with hats, scarves, gloves, socks, underwear, soap and more to make a helpful package for those in need.
The program started back in 1985, after founder Flo Wheatley had a touching experience with a homeless man in New York City.
He had helped her and her son Leonard, who was undergoing treatment for lymphoma and very weak, get a seat on the train and hail a cab.
As he turned to leave her, he looked back and said, “Don’t abandon me.”
Shaken by the gravity of the man’s words, Flo her husband Jim Wheatley, Leonard and other family members began quilting that very winter.
From that moment, the project grew and grew.
Thirty-one years later, it is estimated that over 100,000 quilts have been created and donated across the country due to the Wheatley’s devotion.
Monday’s activities were designed as a way to pay tribute to a man whose life revolved around positive service for those in need.
“It is Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, and what better way to do service than to help the homeless?” volunteer Joan Kupetsky of Nicholson said. “We’re very lucky we can go home and sleep in a nice, warm house, and I think we need to remember that.”
Monday was also an important day because it continued to extend the outreach of the program to a younger audience.
“Many of our groups are older women who are dying off,” Kupetsky, who has been full-time with the program since 2011, said. “There’s not a lot of young kids in the program.”
Lucas Taylor, assistant director of student activities and leadership development at Keystone, said community service is important for students.
“Service to the community is key,” Taylor said. “The students are very receptive to helping with any project that has to deal with the community, especially the Sleeping Bag Project because of the specific population that it helps.”
Along for the fun were two of Kupetsky’s six adopted children, Talia and Jesus Herrera.
Talia, 12, was acquiring much-needed community service hours for upcoming communion.
“The best part about doing this is knowing that people have somewhere warm to sleep,” Talia Herrera said.
Even after receiving communion, Talia plans on continuing her community service efforts with the Sleeping Bag Project.
Following the activities, which took place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Brooks Theater on Keystone’s campus, the finished products were taken to Scranton to be distributed to the Keystone Rescue Mission Alliance or the Community Intervention Center.
Amanda Nhem, a Keystone College student, volunteered with the project for the first time on Monday, promising to return next year with friends.
“I really like helping out and it’s for a good cause,” Nhem said.
For more information on the Sleeping Bag Project and My Brothers’ Helper, visit www.thesleepingbagproject.org.