Master knitter Karla Leopold with grannie squares for Baton Rouge baby blanket project. Photo by Holly Parsons

The partnership between humanitarians Karla Leopold, art therapist, and Sister Judith Brun, founder of Neighbor’s Keeper, a nonprofit group in Baton Route, Louisiana, has been years in the making. First meeting as child well-being responders after Hurricane Katrina’s devastating impact on New Orleans, they quickly bonded in service of softening the impact on families.

Soon after the hurricane’s devastation, Baton Rouge grew into ground zero at Renaissance Village, FEMA’s largest trailer camp, Leopold and Sister Judith working in tandem again. Initial estimates report more than 600 child evacuees were housed with their families in substandard trailers riddled with mold.

Engaged by the Community Initiative Foundation, the American Art Therapy Association began sending scores of volunteer art therapists in an effort to help mitigate child trauma continuously for more than 10 years.

Take Care Baton Rouge is currently focusing on reducing generational poverty through neighborhood rejuvenation with specific attention to pregnant women, after care and infants. According to a recent broadcast on NPR, in the U.S., black babies die at more than two times the rate of white babies. According to the Center for Diseases Control, black mothers die more than three to four times the rate of white mothers after giving birth.

Leopold, a master knitter, travels to Baton Rouge twice annually since the floods. “Knitting became a big thing in Renaissance Village and the knitting theme has continued to grow into community knitting. There’s a little boy who once said to me, ‘I love to knit. I can make something out of northing and when I can’t sleep, I pretend to knit and it clears the mind.’ Knitting becomes the bridge between traumatized survivors that provides the vehicle to educate,” said Leopold.

Sister Judith adopted the small, low-income community of Highland Farms endeavoring to rehab the swollen town post-Katrina. Due to breakdowns in the fabric of family resulting from poverty and relocation, Sister Judith came to understand that young women are in need of nurturing into motherhood.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Louisiana has joined as a sponsor, permitting Sister Judith to recently hire a doula to assist birthing. The women of the National Association of Women Artists generously provided knitting supplies and Leopold’s role is to continue her commitment to incorporate the arts into the community.

This is the project: Communities are invited to knit or crochet 6-inch blanket squares. Together, the new mothers will be taught how to craft personal baby blankets by picking from the assortment of knitted or crocheted squares the artists provide.

“Please ask anyone you know who knits or crochets to join this wonderful project,” Leopold requests. “We will become partners to those who have so little in a fun creative manner. With our efforts to knit and crochet these squares, we will be providing added love and caring for the new mothers and their infants in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“Instructions: Use washable yarn either DK or Worsted weight of any colors. The 6-inch squares can be created in any stitch pattern of your choice. Mardi Gras and Carnival colors of Purple, Gold and Green are favored by most Louisianans.

“There are numerous ways to create your 6-inch squares. I encourage you to explore various stitch patterns while creating your squares. There are numerous sites on the internet with beautiful crocheting and knitting patterns for 6-inch squares.

“Happy Creating.” For questions, contact at karla@karlaleopold.com or www.KarlaLeopold.com

Mail or deliver to: Karla Leopold, PO Box 1903, 52540 Idyllmont Road, Idyllwild, CA 92549, or Sister Judith Brun, 304 Laurel St 3D, Baton Rouge, LA 70801.

Also, artists may drop off finished projects to Debbie Sheppard at Show Time Video.

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