Each card represents appreciative words from the recipient of a blanket, scarf or a cross-stitched wall hanging of the Lord’s Prayer handcrafted and donated by Chipman.
A member of St. Gabriel Parish in Neenah, Chipman treats the thank you cards like two-party checks and writes or endorses her own thanks to God on the back of the cards.
“I endorse the thank you cards over to God. Sometimes there isn’t room, so I attach a Post-It note with a thank you,” Chipman said. “Nothing that I do is for me or from me. I write the notes to God because it’s important to me to recognize where the thanks really goes.”
There is always a need for more love in the world, said Chipman, who estimated she’s made more than 2,000 blankets from fleece, a wool-like, ultra-soft synthetic material, over the past six years.
“The fleece is something people can bond with,” Chipman said. “And I can work with it. It’s fun, soft and warm.”
Chipman has given the blankets to the Harbor House shelter for women and children in Appleton, the Emergency Shelter of the Fox Valley, a homeless shelter at the state veterans’ home in King and, most recently, a shelter for homeless women military veterans in Milwaukee.
Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Ann Chipman
Parish: St. Gabriel, Neenah
Favorite saint: Joseph
Words to live by: “What have I done for God lately?”
“I know that God’s love is felt in these items,” Chipman said. “It’s important they (recipients) have a need that I can meet. It’s important that they are God’s children. It’s how I serve God.”
Chipman, who admits to “pushing 50,” said her desire to help people in need stems back to her childhood in Berlin, in southeast Wisconsin, where she attended St. Stanislaus Parish (now All Saints).
“My parents, Ted and Joan Chipman, taught us by example that life is a matter of doing things for your neighbors,” Chipman said. “When I was a young girl I would shovel snow from our elderly neighbor’s driveway. And I’ve always made things to give away, even when I was a kid.”
Chipman eventually made her way to the Fox Cities, where she now works for Network Health Plan in Menasha. Prior to making fleece blankets and scarves in 2005, Chipman would bake and donate batches of cookies, cakes and breads for area bakes sales.
A member of the Crozier Society, Chipman joined the Project Comfort sewing group at St. Gabriel and began turning out fleece blankets.
“I sewed everything by hand. I thought it would be a great way to help the church,” she said.
Chipman is unsure exactly how many blankets she’s made. “I don’t count them. That’s God’s job,” she said. Piles of finished blankets fill Chipman’s living room and stacks of fleece await conversion to a blanket or scarf.
Squares of cross-stitch material are embossed with the “Our Father” prayer, each made to order for people needing the special words to God, Chipman said.
Chipman prays over every blanket, scarf or cross-stitch “Our Father” that she makes.
“I pray over everything. I ask the Holy Spirit to come with me as a guide when I go out and look for materials because I don’t always know who I am making blankets or cross-stitchings for,” Chipman said.
She recently completed a Lord’s Prayer cross-stitch for a co-worker whose sister, who lives in Decatur, Ill., is suffering from breast cancer.
All the lettering of the “Our Father” was done in shades of pink and a breast cancer awareness ribbon design was cross-stitched into a corner.
Chipman said she begins each day with a 45-minute “prayer walk” tracing a path in her central-city neighborhood that has the shape of a cross.
“I’ll pray the Lord’s Prayer, the Divine Praises, Anima Christi, Chaplet of Divine Mercy, the rosary, Litany of Mary, Litany of St. Joseph and the Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Christ,” she said.
The walk focuses her mind on that day’s work of giving to fulfill God’s will.
Chipman’s giving is not limited to fleece blankets and scarves or cross-stitchings.
She maintains a supply of chocolates for co-workers who are having a bad day.
“I’ll give them a little chocolate and say, ‘Have a good day,'” Chipman said.
Chipman said she puts all the thank you cards with their endorsements to God on a shelf each year and begins anew her quest to serve God’s will.
“In the new year I will ask myself ‘What have I done for God lately?’ and start working on the answer all over again,” she said. “I never know where or when I can be here for my brothers and sisters in Christ. If I can help someone it makes my day.”