Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Spirit of the Season: Giving Quilts....

As quilters, when we think of giving to others, the first thing that often comes into our minds is the giving of a warm quilt. It's something we all love to do and all love to see put into action.

Recently, I read about a local church group in my area that gave 285 quilts to the students and the entire staff of Brooks Elementary School... a small, local, low-income school, near Salem, Oregon, where I live. The quilters spent an entire year lovingly creating these quilts and then arrived at the little school to personally hand them out.

The principal decided that it was important that the students understand about the quilts, and why the quilters were there and why they were distributing them to each student and each staff member, that day. All 240 students were called to an assembly in the school gym and the announcement was made.

After a few seconds of clapping and cheering. their principal said: The volunteers "are being generous with a gift. You can be generous with your kind words, with your smile, by saying 'thank you.'"

And you all know, we need to teach not only the importance of giving, and how to give....but also the importance of receiving, and how to receive.

After the school-wide announcement, the children returned to their classrooms and the volunteers began to hand out the quilts to students and teachers. The beautiful patchwork creations ranged from flowers to Spider-Man. And many of them were lovingly tied, rather than machine or hand quilted. All were colorful and beautiful and definitely made and given with love.

The room of second-graders, shown above, immediately wrapped the quilts around themselves, and kept themselves covered during story time. And when the quilting volunteers left that classroom, all of the children called out their "Thank you's."

One church ladies group volunteer said she doesn't know how the idea came to her. It just did, and it seemed right. She added that she knows some Brooks Elementary students are in foster care, or their families have little money.

"Who better to help than children?" she said. At this small elementary school, 91% of the students qualify for the free or reduced-cost lunch program, a program for which eligibility is based on poverty guidelines.

As on church volunteer said...in all of her 20 years, she's never heard of the church committing to a large-scale effort like this for a school. The quilters found that they could create about one 45-by-54 inch quilt in a day. And by all of them working together, they just did it...one quilt at a time. 285 quilts.

The quilters all agreed that "The experience is really bringing our ladies together," because they discovered that as they quilted, their quilting group began to grow. They went from about a half dozen quilters to twenty women. Putting the love of quilting as well as the desire to give into action and watching the movement grow.

Much of the fabric was donated, but the ladies group also bought many of the materials, including the batting, themselves. And their giving hasn't ended yet. As soon as they discovered that several of the staff members hadn't received a quilt, they vowed to return with more. They quickly made two more and are working on another two. And that's just exactly how quilts are made and giving grows....one little quilt at a time.

As one little girl called out, wrapping her quilt around herself....

"Thank you for the quilts. I wish I could have all the quilts in the world!"