GLEN ELLYN – When Glen Ellyn resident Linda Kastiel Kozlowski walked into the DuPage County Animal Care and Control shelter one day in 2007, she walked out with a kitten named Anna.
But inside, many more animals waited to be adopted.
It was “their little faces” that ultimately made Kozlowski do what she did next, which was start crocheting blankets for the pets she couldn’t take home.
What began as a one-woman endeavor has since grown to include about 90 volunteers who recently reached a milestone of creating 15,000 blankets for homeless pets at roughly 88 shelters across 18 states.
And Kozlowski, for one, cannot believe how her good intentions have extended beyond what she ever imagined.
“I never planned it all out,” she said. “I’m just kind of riding the coattails down the tracks.”
In 2007, Kozlowski crocheted abut 100 blankets for shelter pets. The next year, she recruited her mother-in-law and a friend to help. In 2009, their efforts were formalized as a nonprofit called Comfort for Critters.
Much of the organization’s growth has come from word-of-mouth among local animal shelters.
Blankets have reached shelters in other states as well, mainly through the outreach of residents from those states who wanted to get involved with Comfort for Critters’ cause.
When out-of-staters contact Kozlowski, she finds a shelter near them that will accept donated blankets for its animals, and then the volunteers are free to create blankets and donate them in the nonprofit’s name.
For Kozlowski, participating shelters only need to follow one rule when it comes to receiving the group’s blankets: They must allow the homeless pets to take their blankets with them when they do eventually find a home.
The handmade blankets, which are typically made of yarn or fleece, add a punch of color and feeling of home to the cages at a shelter, said Amanda Majewski, division assistant at DuPage County Animal Care and Control.
That can help to make the shelter look more inviting to people wishing to adopt an animal.
When animals head to their new homes, keeping the blankets with the critters gives them something that is comfortable and familiar to them as they go somewhere they’ve never been.
“Besides comforting them in the shelter, we want to ease their transition into their forever home,” Kozlowski said.
She expects Comfort for Critters will donate about 4,000 blankets to animal shelters this year.
Although the group has many volunteers, including residents of area retirement homes and participants in programs with the Ray Graham Association in Lisle, help is always welcome, as the number of recipient shelters continues to grow each month, Kozlowski said.
But what Comfort for Critters needs most of all is blanket materials, including yarn and fleece.
Although some volunteers buy their own fabrics, the majority of what goes into the blankets is donated.
Almost every day, Kozlowski receives a bundle of blankets or materials to be used in her efforts.
In deciding to pursue those efforts after she adopted Anna in 2007, Kozlowski has benefited, not only the animals and shelters, but the nonprofit’s volunteers as well.
Kozlowski has been told by her helpers that knitting the blankets gives them something to do, in place of grabbing a cigarette after dinner or eating chips while watching TV.
“In following that little urge so many other blessings have happened,” Kozlowski said.