News and Views

Fallston UMC redefines church as it serves veterans

Posted by Melissa Lauber on








Lynne Heller, left, and Rev. Karin Walker
one of the blankets.

At Fallston UMC, the lines that separate the inside and outside of church often become blurred, said the Rev. Karin Walker. The most recent instance of this surrounds the congregation’s “1111 Project” to create blankets for veterans.

On Oct 18, members of the church gathered at the grand re-opening of Joanne’s Fabric in Bel Air. The store wanted to partner with schools and community groups, who wanted to partner with the church, who wanted to partner with Upper Chesapeake Hospital Center — all of whom sought to honor veterans for their service. It was all mission and ministry — just spread out throughout Harford County.

The 1111 Project, inspired by Veterans Day on Nov. 11, is the brainchild of Lynne Heller, who wanted to make 1,111 blankets to give to veterans. The blankets, made of fleece, come in a wide variety of red-white-and-blue patterns and have tied fringe edges.

The church cuts and joins the blanket materials, making kits they send out to community groups to assemble.

Since March, close to 550 blankets have been distributed. She won’t reach her original goal, but Heller is certain that it’s not the numbers that matter. Those that make the blankets and those who tie them are moved by the process, she said. “We’ve gotten past the numbers.”

Heller expects the project will extend beyond Veterans Day. An average of about 30 blankets are handed out each week, Walker said.

For those in the hospital, they’re distributed in a special ceremonylike setting in which Pastor Allen Seigel, the chaplain at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, dresses in his military uniform, says a prayer, and presents the blanket, holding it out, offering a salute and words of gratitude.

“When we provide veterans with these beautiful fleece blankets from the Fallston UMC Project 1111 Initiative, a look of joy and wonder radiates across their faces,” Seigel said. “These blankets warm the body and warm the hearts of our veterans.”

So far, blankets have been made by several area churches, VFW and Lions clubs, Parent-Teacher Associations, the YMCA, Scout troops, school honor societies, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and many individuals. Making the blankets is easy, Heller explained. It essentially involves tying together fringe cut out from the edges.

At Joanne’s, members of the church talked with shoppers passing by and a few stopped to tie some knots. “I just wanted to make a difference in the life of a vet, to thank them for their sacrifice and service,” one woman said.

Even the church’s new Pickle Ball group has made a few blankets.

The monthly Pickle Ball games — held at the church — are another form of community engagement. Walker is becoming used to this kind of untraditional engagement.

Recently, when she was picking up a prescription from a local pharmacy, the clerk handed her a pen that said Fallston UMC on the side. The pharmacist had picked a few up at a flu shot clinic at the church.

 Walker just smiled and marveled as the church and community continue to engage one another in small and significant ways. “It’s a good thing,” she said, “when you can’t always tell where the church starts and ends.”

To learn more about or participate in the 1111 Project, visit