Working for Peanuts: The Project Linus Story, by Karen Loucks Rinedollar

Book 42

I bought Working for Peanuts expecting to read a story about a small, grassroots effort that blossomed into an active, nationwide charity.  What happened was that one woman had a really great idea – make 100 blankets in one year to give to a local children’s hospital – and went national with it.  

Seriously, after recruiting a few friends to help her make blankets, Rinedollar started writing letters to the press until she got a call from L.A.

I have mixed feelings about this.  Project Linus was a great idea in that really prolific crafters quickly run out of family and friends that appreciate their “hobby”.  Project Linus provides and endless need for them to continue.  Also,  my chapter is really well run and I very much enjoy being a part of it.  However.

For one thing the author spends an awful lot of time talking about herself (if you had to do a shot every time she mentioned her college major…).  Here is a quote about “Debbie Downers”:

“People don’t realize how off-putting they can be when a visionary comes to them, entrusting them with their idea.”

It reminded me of something that I was taught as a child:  no one who is really “classy” would ever describe herself as such.

The best parts of this book are the stories of the other people she met that joined the cause.  In particular, I remember the lady in Long Island that Rinedollar was trying to recruit as a local coordinator.  The lady, Elizabeth, said something like: It is all well and good for midwestern ladies to get together and make blankets for children.  New Yorkers won’t do it.

Yes, they did.  And Elizabeth coordinated the effort.  I wish more time was spent talking about people like her.

Loucks went halfway to illustrating several great points.  One is that running an all-volunteer organization is great if you are independently wealthy (or at least don’t have to work) but most of us require a source of income.  Another is that volunteers burn out (or get sick, or life just happens).  A third is that publicity is great, but you’d better be prepared for it.  Any one of these issues, if expanded upon, would have made for a great teaching moment for other groups.

OK – no fair complaining that she didn’t write the book that I wanted.

However, this is much less “The Project Linus Story” and much more one person’s memoir of founding a charity.  (And while I am being cranky, it was very poorly edited.)

I was very interested to read about how Rinedollar, knowing that she couldn’t give Project Linus what it needed, planned to shut it down.  So good on her for putting that together before something imploded.  Then a couple of ladies in Illinois picked up the mantle.  The national headquarters is now in Bloomington, and something tells me the their memoir would be a pretty good read.

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