The first job for any Quilts of Compassion deployment is setting up what Janice calls our "Staging Area." We have to load our vehicles with as many quilts as possible to go into the neighboring communities, and need to be able to access large adult quilts (male/female) or children's quilts (again, for both boys and girls) easily and quickly. One thing that we try to do as we serve the community is give every single member of the household their own quilt, appropriate for them and their needs. It's necessary to transport the quilts in large, contractor-style bags to protect them from dirt and excess handling, but we quickly get those bags open and the quilts stacked on tables by size and gender so that we can access an assortment. We don't transport "bagged" quilts into the community for distribution.
Our staging area in the hotel in Winnie was a little smaller than we are usually used to...and we had a massive number of quilts donated for this trip. THREE THOUSAND quilts is a lot of quilts, y'all. For context, all the quilts in the International Quilt Festival show numbered about 1,500. And I have to say before I go much further, as a quilt maker and a bit of a quilt snob...these quilts were MAGNIFICENT. At least 1,000 of the quilts we had to deliver, all lovingly made by quilters all over the world, were heirloom-quality quilts. I'm just saying...these weren't "quick charity quilts!" These quilts were the kinds of quilts I'd make for my first grandchild's wedding. Or my mom & dad's 50th anniversary. HEIRLOOM quilts. I absolutely adore the fact that there are literally thousands of quilt makers around the world that know when they make a charity quilt, they are gifting that quilt to GOD and His mission of redeeming the world. No cutting corners, no making something cheap...and no giving away a quilt that was "not good enough for me, but some poor person will appreciate it." These quilts were FIRST FRUITS, and it was amazing and humbling and tear-inducing to behold as we opened bag after bag viewing these lovely quilts. I snapped a few pictures, but you have to believe me when I say there were breath-taking quilts I didn't photograph.
Now, all y'all that are saying, "Oh, well...I cannot donate a quilt then because my quilt making skills aren't heirloom quality yet..." be not afraid! Because a large number of our donations are fleece blankets, crocheted or knitted blankets (of all sizes, but a lot of infants), and simple pieced and tied quilts, also. And Lori the Quilt Snob watched kids of all ages reach right past heirloom quilts and grab those fleece throws with delight, bury their faces in them, and say, "It's SO SOFT!" Please, please, please, keep sending fleece and crochet! The retired middle school teacher in me says FOR THE CHILDREN...send fleece!
|Crocheted edge fleece|
|A great size for kids!|
|Dennis personally gifted this fleece quilt to a child later in the week, and he saw the joy light up her eyes.|
|Texas Strong by Jen de Jong (who I discovered I have to share with Janice, since they are real life friends)|
|I stopped taking pictures of quilts, and started taking pictures of labels at some point...because it was just so cool to see how far the quilts had traveled.|
|After we loaded our vehicles, we headed to Port Arthur to escort the team into the neighborhoods we'd seen in our short visit there.|
Again, I'm horrible about being IN the mission and DOING the mission...while taking pictures and blogging about it. So, I don't have any pictures of all seven of us from Day One (and on Day Two we were joined by our eighth team member), or really many pictures from that afternoon of walking the neighborhoods and delivering quilts. After all, it's not always appropriate to ask a family if you can photograph them with their quilts, so I have to do it with discernment. But this sweet couple were easy to convince...she's a crafter, and lost fabric and machines to the flood. She had gone to a Cricut Maker workshop the night before, though, and she had hope that she'd be crafting again soon! Both loved their quilts. We were expecting the weather to change, and everyone was very grateful for the quilt arriving just before it turned very cold. Most families are living in campers in their front yards, or trying to camp in a house with walls missing.
After it began getting dark, we parted from the team to head back on the 30 mile drive to Winnie, with plans to meet in the morning. But going on mission with Dennis requires that he eat regular meals (nobody wants to hug his neck if he's hungry), so we stopped for a quick dinner, then began to find our way out of Port Arthur. We happened to drive by Encounter Church and noticed that their parking lot was full...on a Tuesday night?
|Encounter Church, Port Arthur|
So, we stopped in to see if we could serve any of their congregation that had been impacted by the flooding. We met one of their pastors' wives, Mia, in the lobby, and explained our purpose. She was thrilled, since over 50 families in their congregation had lost everything. It was Tuesday night Bible study, and the women were meeting in the sanctuary, men in the youth building, and kids upstairs! It was a perfect scenario for distributing a lot of quilts quickly directly to people impacted by the flooding. I set up inside with women's quilts, and Dennis set up at the van, handing out quilts in the parking lot. He actually got to go into the men's Bible study and give a brief explanation of the Quilts of Compassion mission, and invite the men to come get a quilt when they got out of their meeting. They released a bit before the women's group did, and it was awesome to watch them beeline for the van! Dennis shared that they all pushed a young man to the front, saying, "This guy needs quilts more than the rest of us!" Manny is from Puerto Rico, and not only had he been impacted locally in Texas, but he was headed home to PR to visit his family the following week. Dennis loaded him up with quilts to take to his family, and now we could say that Quilts of Compassion reached Puerto Rico! How cool is that?
|Dennis gave Manny a "North Carolina" quilt with our lighthouses to remember him.|
|This sweet girl doesn't have a room or a bed yet. One of the other moms asked her, "Does that match your room?" and she said, "I don't really have one." She was all smiles and loved her quilt.|
|If every quilter in America could see this picture, we would never need to ask for quilt donations again. Isn't he the sweetest thing you ever saw?|
God was so good and so sweet to take us to Encounter Church! We just loved the spirit in that place, and the hope and stories from all the congregation as they shared His protection during the flooding. People who had lost everything told us how good God is, and how Faithful He is to His People. One member took 10 wheelchair sized quilts to church members in a nursing home that have been "doubled up" in another temporary nursing home location, forced to have several people to a room.
We left Encounter Church so grateful and full of God's love and provision that we missed the turn to Winnie and had to by-pass to find our hotel. Such a great first day! We were filled with anticipation of all the Lord would bring us on Day Two. He does not disappoint! Keep reading.