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Female inmates at the CCA Silverdale Detention Center help assemble fleece blankets to be distributed by the Valamont Womens Club.

Sometimes warm, fuzzy stories are literally warm and fuzzy.

You could say that about a project of the Valamont Women's Club. The ladies turn discounted fleece into cuddle-blankets for sick kids.

The Valamont Women's Club here dates to the 1950s. Its members do things like supplying toiletry items to retirement homes and turning out for an annual Alzheimer's charity walk.

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Mark Kennedy

What makes this new effort so warm and fuzzy — besides the fleece throws themselves — are the layers of volunteering that go into making the blankets, which are given away to children at T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital at Erlanger and the Ronald McDonald House.

The ladies of Valamont — which means "between the mountain and the valley" — buy the fleece material when it's on sale at Chattanooga-area fabric stores. When somebody spots a good deal, the texts fly like a flock of startled starlings.

First, the women take the squares of fleece to a Girl Scouts group at Orchard Knob Baptist Church for cutting, and then they deliver the material to the Silverdale Detention Center, where several female inmates volunteer to assemble the "no-sew" blankets.

"This [blanket material] is something bright and cuddly, and they have none of that," says Linda Hershey, a member of the women's club. "It's a sunshine moment for them."

"We've gotten a positive reaction from the inmates," adds Carmen Delgado, chief of unit management at Silverdale. "It helps them turn doing time into something positive. It keeps them busy and gives them an experience they can be proud of."

After they are assembled at Silverdale, the blankets are distributed to sick kids and their families.

The club has delivered about 100 so far.

The project was conceived by Hershey, who learned of a national blanket-making effort called Project Linus, named after the security blanket-dragging character in the Peanuts comic strip.

"I just thought, 'How about if we brought together three groups of women,'" she says. "I had read in a book by Debbie Macomber, 'A Good Yarn Shop,' about a character who had gotten in trouble and had to do community service work by knitting a blanket for the Project Linus."

Project Linus is no longer operating in Chattanooga, so the women's club decided to make the idea its own. They bought some little labels that read "Made for you by the Valamont Women's Club" to attach to the blankets.

Valamont Women's Club president Susan Lamberth says blanket delivery day is a big event at the children's hospital. She has a lasting memory of one little girl clutching her new blanket.

"She had been miserable the whole time," Lamberth said. "The lady at the hospital said when she took her the blanket she began hugging it. It was the first time she had smiled in days."

Fleece, however, is not cheap. It costs about $20 in material to make a blanket.

Anyone wishing to help with expenses or who would like more information can contact club officers at valamontgfwc@gmail.com.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.

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