Laurie Parker, executive director of the Santa Barbara Police Activities League (SBPAL) — a nonprofit designed to foster relationships among area youth, the Police Department, and the Santa Barbara community — has found a charming and heartfelt way of bringing disadvantaged teens together to benefit others. In crisis situations involving children, police need ways to make young ones feel safe: colorful blankets hand-knitted by empathetic teens aim to do just that.
In front of the Twelve35 Teen Center Monday afternoon, SBPAL staff and SBPD officers held a ceremony to recognize the efforts of the eight girls and two boys who form the SBPAL Knitting Club. The young volunteers created a total of 29 blankets, one for each of the city’s black-and-white patrol cars.
Two senior volunteers from the Breast Cancer Resource Center provided expertise to the members of the Knitting Club by teaching them how to craft hats, scarves, and blankets. The hand-knitted blankets were held by the young volunteers Monday as they lined up behind the open trunk of a police patrol car. Photographers snapped photos as the line moved forward, each youth grinning and waiting for their turn to place the blanket inside.
With their ninth annual Putting Kids First! Event scheduled on April 27 at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, SBPAL hopes to raise funds to continue its involvement in providing underprivileged youth with opportunities to live safe and rewarding lives. One example, said Laurie Parker, that proves the organization’s worth is its commitment to ensuring that youth athletics programs — such as high school basketball and soccer for girls and boys alike — remain free of costs.
Participating in competitive sports sometimes requires expensive equipment that not everyone can afford, said Parker, but, when people come together, they can create opportunities where there previously were none.