South Hills girl making difference by sewing blankets

PITTSBURGH — Finding a way for young children to volunteer can be challenging as many activities have an age limit, but one South Hills girl didn’t let her age stop her from making a difference uniquely.

11-Year Old Layla Hockenberry spent much of the pandemic taking old, donated T-shirts and cutting them into 10-by-10 squares. She then pins them and sews them into blankets. She is then donating them to people in need, such as families after a house fire.

This passion started when she was 8 years old, when she attended a “sew-in” to help people without homes.

“She left and was changed,” said Layla’s Mother, Sarah Hockenberry. “it’s part of her DNA, but the fact that it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I made a blanket, and it’s done,’ is what really touches me. she wants to keep doing it; she wanted to buy the sewing machine, she doesn’t want to stop.”

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Hockenberry said it was hard to find an activity for her daughter to participate in at a young age, but sewing blankets were perfect, even though they didn’t know how to do it at first. They made this labor of love a family affair by having Layla’s grandmother teach her the skill.

“We have our own sewing machine. We have our own little station in the dining room. It’s nothing fancy, but it doesn’t need to be to be able to make this. We have a template that we cut them out and put them together,” said Hockenberry.

The Whitehall family partnered with a local clothing exchange in their community, taking unusable T-shirts and creating 20 quilts. Layla even incorporates T-shirt messages into each blanket, from “relax, refresh, renew” to a handwritten note of “You are my hero.”

Layla Hockenberry hopes each person who receives the blanket knows one thing: “I hope that the people who are going to get these blankets know that people care about them.”

Layla Hockenberry is making us proud to be from Pittsburgh.