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Handmade blankets provide a touch of home When she was 9, Deborah Starobin Armstrong had to spend a year in the hospital with a kidney infection. The doctors let her answer phones and deliver mail, but she still remembers it as being and kind of scary. when she realized that thousands of men and women serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were in similar places, the Upper Marlboro resident decided to make them a little warmer. In December 2004, Starobin Armstrong, 48, started the Handmade Afghans to Thank Our Armed Forces Project, a collection of volunteers who knit afghans, blankets of colored wool, for wounded veterans and their families. The group has expanded to include more than 1,100 members from around the world, and Starobin Armstrong put the volunteers 2000th afghan in the mail Friday. matter what your beliefs are on the wars, there are people involved, she said in her home, which is filled with eye high stacks of folded afghans. we need to support them. started the project after she was laid off from her job at the University of Maryland, College Park. Remembering her childhood experiences, she sent e mails to a few people on her contact list, asking if they would like to get involved. At the time, she expected a handful of people to stay involved with the project for a few months, she said. Now the Handmade Afghans Project has volunteers from every state, as well as Israel, Mexico, England and other countries. Some of the afghans come from nursing homes, hospitals and even a women prison in Illinois. Others come from active duty personnel who are stationed overseas. see a lot of people wanting to do something, Starobin Armstrong said. is an easy way for them to do that. knit the rectangles that are used in the afghans, which are mailed to other volunteers who sort them by color. Every few months, Starobin Armstrong and other volunteers meet to knit them into completed afghans, which she then washes, photographs and mails to military hospitals around the world. Her house is full of mementos from the project. On her mantle is an American flag sent by the staff of the medical hospital at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. But she said her favorite possession is a blue cardboard folder, stuffed with every letter and holiday card she has ever received from hospital staff, veterans and their families. a touch of home, he said. reminds them that people care about them outside of the hospital. Reed gets around 1,600 donations every month, Walrond said. But he said he admires Starobin Armstrong for sending afghans to other military hospitals that volunteers often overlook. that she [going to] hospitals outside of Walter Reed, that great news, Walrond said. just as deserving, they just don have the publicity down there. some of the letters Starobin Armstrong has collected, soldiers and medical staff seem to agree.