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Making a Difference: Blankets for Babies

shutterstock_137432105BY JUSTIN SOUZA

It was only a few days until Christmas, and the 11 year old Taylor had a pile of presents under her mom’s tree, but she happily reported that it was not as large as the pile at her Dad’s house.

Her mom, Karen Beckwith, remembers being stunned. “I said ‘oh no you didn’t!’” laughs Karen. “My first thought was that I needed to get her interacting with the less privileged! My point was not to punish her, really, but to show her the plights of other people in the community. I wanted her to see that there were people standing in line all day just to get a turkey dinner, a little present for their kid and a candy cane.”

A few days later, Karen got her chance when she and Taylor volunteered to hand out gifts to the needy at the Modesto Gospel Mission on Yosemite Avenue.

“It was a punishment, so at first it was like torture,” Taylor recalls. The pair were assigned to hand out gifts at the baby table. That year, the line of recipients far surpassed the stock of gifts volunteers had ready. “About halfway through our shift, we ran out of blankets. We had a shift after us, too. So there were no blankets for anyone after that point.”

B In the car ride home from the Mission that night, Taylor was quiet. After a few minutes, she told her mom about a little girl in a white onesie who she had seen.

“She was just a couple months old, dressed in one of those white undershirt onesies, the kind you put under an outfit,” remembers Taylor. “That’s all she had. She and her family came in after the blankets had run out—even the men’s table had run out of sleeping bags—so we couldn’t give her anything. It was so cold out and she didn’t need a toy, she needed a blanket but we didn’t have anything to give her to keep her warm.”

“I just decided right then that I didn’t want them to run out of blankets next year.”

First, Taylor made flyers. In her careful handwriting, she penned a request for donations of blankets, then had her Mom photocopy the sheet on blanket-themed stationary. “I handed out the flyers and told my friends and family that I was collecting blankets for babies,” says Taylor.

Within a few weeks, the news started to spread, and donations started to trickle in from people she knew. Then, she received a few from people she didn’t. After that, the donations started to flood. “My goal was to collect 365 baby blankets. By December, I had gotten over 600!”

That Christmas, a year after she had first encountered the little girl in the white onesie, Taylor returned to the Mission and finally handed a blanket to the child who had inspired her mission. But even after Taylor went home that night, the blankets didn’t stop coming. So the project Taylor began just kept going.

In the seven years since, Blankets for Babies has brought in anywhere from 350 to 600 blankets every year, and has earned Taylor a wealth of honors from local, regional and state groups. Soroptimist International awarded Taylor its Violet Richardson Award both at the local and state levels, as well as making Blankets for Babies part of its yearly budget. Taylor was also named the American Red Cross’ Youth Hero of the Year.

Taylor is 16 now, a junior in high school, and Blankets for Babies has been part of her life for seven Christmas seasons. In that time, Karen Beckwith’s teachable moment inspired something she never could have foreseen: a different kind of daughter.

“She’s always been a good kid, but she needed to see that life isn’t easy for everyone,” adds Karen. “What she considers her little project is a very big thing for a lot of people. Without the knowledge that the little girl in the white onesie is out there, she might not have become the person she is now.”

“Since I started my project, I’ve realized that there are needs out there that I can help with,” says Taylor. “I’ve learned that no matter who you are or how old you are, you really can do something. You can make a difference, even if you’re small. Now I try to make a difference. Because I know now that even if I can’t do much, at least I can do something. And doing something matters.”

As Taylor prepares to transition to college in the next couple years, she’s ready to pass her project on to another young person who wants to make a difference in the world. If you know someone interested in doing something to help, contact TAYLOR AT [email protected]

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