Whenever a disaster strikes or forces of nature rip into a
community, one can be sure that people with sewing machines will soon be busy
creating quilts, those warm and comforting textiles of love prevalent
throughout American history. Because as
this quilter’s husband has stated, “Once you know about quilts, there are times
when nothing else will do.”
Thanks to Doppler weather radar technology and lightning
fast communications, we are able to track approaching weather disasters. Hurricane Katrina was taking aim at New
Orleans one of the last times we heard the call of our sewing rooms. This past autumn was not different. A Hurricane named Sandy was leaving Cuba and
heading for New York, and promised to be the latest “storm of the century.” Second in damages caused only to Katrina,
Superstorm Sandy’s surge hit New York City on October 29, 2012. Flights were cancelled, tunnels and bridges
were closed, subway, bus and commuter rail service was suspended. Thousands of homes were destroyed. Lives were changed.
Our local quilt guild, East Bay Heritage Quilters (EBHQ) is
well known for sewing in the wake of disaster.
Over the years, quilters in EBHQ have made quilts for those affected by
the Oakland Hills fire, Hurricane Katrina, the Fukushima Daiichi earthquake and
tsunami, the war in the Congo, the tornado in Joplin, Missouri, the tragedy at
Columbine, the shootings at Virginia Tech; the list is long. Guild members also routinely make quilts for
fragile children in hospital care, for returning service members, and for
foster children aging out of the system.
Congress lumbers in response to such overwhelming
disasters, natural and otherwise. Quilters do not. Judy Jensen, a
warm and spirited woman who has been quilting since 1971, lived in Brooklyn for
27 years and is a member of EBHQ. After talking with old friends from
Brooklyn and hearing news reports about the survivors and their needs, she knew
people in our community could help. When EBHQ put out a call for
"Sandy" quilts, she had a way to be part of a collective
effort. Judy, Deanna Davis, and Susan Dague hatched a plan to act.
They visited the repository of fabric donated to the guild’s community outreach
project, and began pulling together groupings of fabric which would become
Judy and Susan began by making kits to assemble between
fifteen and twenty quilts. Word
spread. Other quilters pulled unfinished
quilts from their stashes, and contributed much more fabric to the cause that
was soon known as Sandy Quilts. The
Albany United Methodist Church, at 980 Stannage Avenue, donated five days’ use
of their work space for our quilters to meet, and to work together on these
quilts. Deanna Davis, EBHQ president and
chair of the guild’s Community Quilts service aspect, came in to work on Sandy
Quilts with four bins of fabric on any given work day and would leave with four
bins of fabric, donated from guild members.
The number of quilts being lovingly crafted from scraps grew, and grew,
like a textile version of Stone Soup.
Some quilters made blocks.
Others built quilt tops. Still
others measured batting, and made backs and binding for the quilts that were
being borne. A handful of local quilters
offered their skills in quilting the finished tops. Another handful lovingly sewed on the
binding, and the labels. Helen Green,
who sewed bindings with the smallest and loveliest hand stitches imaginable,
listened to Harry Potter while she stitched.
Her friend Diane, whose husband was undergoing chemo at the time, made
incredible quilt tops to be creating something beautiful during her difficult
time. By February of 2013, this group of
women had built 70 quilts, ready to ship to contacts made by Judy, in Far
Rockaway, Staten Island, and New Jersey.
EBHQ also harnessed the power of social media, using
Facebook to find a friend to help transport some of the quilts while on a
personal trip to NYC. Our friend Jim chronicled his leg of this journey
on Instagram. Other large boxes went by post.
From all accounts, these quilts were
warmly received by people whose lives were shattered by the storm. It is six months now since Superstorm Sandy
struck the coast, and most of the aid survivors are receiving is still
trickling in from grassroots sources, managed by nonprofit aid agencies,
working long, long days. One thing is
guaranteed. When the next storm strikes,
members of our quilting community will once again return to their sewing rooms
to create warmth and comfort in the form of a quilt.
Sandy Volunteer Wrap Up Tea
Letters from Recipient Organizations
I received your quilts! They are absolutely beautiful! I showed them off
to everyone in the office. I don’t know how I will decide which
families in need to give them to!
Disaster Recovery Coordinator
Dear Judy & members of the East Bay Heritage Quilters,
Today, we received your beautiful quilts!
Along with quilts created by fellow volunteers from across the country
we continue our distribution to families impacted by the Hurricane
Sandy. Your compassionate donation brings a good deal of comfort to
those displaced and devastated by the flooding. Many residents along the
bayshore side of NJ (where Blankie Depot is headquartered) have lost
their homes and are just beginning the road back through community
cleanups and remodeling projects.
Thank YOU for sharing your time and creative talents with NJ residents
affected by the storm. It has been such a pleasure to take calls,
respond to generous emails and experience how beautifully the crafting
for charity community comes together to help others.
Hugs from here,
Eight beautiful quilts arrived today! The children's panels and the
larger quilts are just terrific. I children's quilts are heading to
Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, NJ and the larger quilts will
travel to the group home we serve in Paterson, NJ.
Hugs to all the quilting gals!
Thank you so much for your in kind donation of quilts to The Action
Center for Education and Community Development's Sandy Disaster Relief
Our efforts would not have been successful without help from people like
you. It is people like you that make the brotherhood and sisterhood of
mankind a reality. Our community has been uplifted by your dedication
Again thank you and may god bless you all.
Semeo S. Doe
The Action Center