Monday, November 20, 2017

Quilts of Compassion Disaster Response Team November 2017 Overview

17But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? 18Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18

A family in Port Arthur, TX
My husband Dennis and I had the opportunity to serve with the Quilts of Compassion Disaster Response TEAM deployment to Texas in early November 2017. Many of you know from my quilting accounts on Facebook and Instagram that I am gung-ho about the ministry of Quilts of Compassion, particularly the Disaster Response mission. I have served on two previous deployments in Tupelo, MS and in Columbia, SC, and spend a lot of my charitable sewing time making quilts myself, or quilting the donated tops and backings of other like-minded quilters to donate in response to a natural disaster. Both my husband Dennis and I are also volunteers with the disaster response organization Eight Days of Hope, and have served on several missions with 8DOH helping families recover from tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods. I wanted to blog about our trip to educate all of you about the Quilts of Compassion ministry, but really to just tell our story and experiences while serving. I cannot blog "on the fly" while we are on the trip, so I rely on Instagram images to document where we go and what we did.  Like me, Janice Grimes (Executive Director of QOC, and visionary extraordinaire) has difficulty processing and publishing all that we are doing, seeing, and serving each day as it happens. I'm sure that Janice will tell the "whole tale" including everyone on the TEAM when she blogs our trip, and I'll link it here when she does. I'm just a longarm quilter that volunteers with the organization. I am not responsible for any part of the ministry--I'm one of THOUSANDS of volunteers that make quilts. I'm one of dozens of volunteers that deliver them. Quilts of Compassion would not be successful if it depended on ME for its mission. We depend on ALL OF YOU. If you are reading this blog, you have a role to play to support Quilts of Compassion. If you quilt, you can donate. If you don' can donate cash. Read everything, then think about what you are called to do.

Hurricane Harvey attacked the region of Texas and Louisiana along the Gulf Coast in August 2017 with record-flooding in a rain event that was unfathomable. Reports vary but some cities recorded over four FEET of rain in a very short period of time. Flooding quickly became the main concern. There was just nowhere for all that water to go. Homes that had never flooded, had no concerns about flooding in the past, and no reason to have flood insurance...flooded in this thousand-year event. The devastation is wide-spread, and daunting as we drove from the coast of Texas to well west of Houston along I-10. Neighborhoods still have piles of debris months later. Homes are still gutted and drying out. Contractors are scarce.

Quilts of Compassion's mission of "Bringing Hope and Encouragement to the Hurting" resonates with our family, and it's for this reason that we continue to serve and donate to QOC. So often, weeks after a storm, as families are trying to rebuild, the stress and loneliness and fatigue can be overwhelming. Quilts of Compassion deploys as a Tier II disaster response organization to meet those spiritual and emotional needs of the communities affected. We personally deliver the quilts that have been lovingly made by quilters all over the country --all over the WORLD-- and remind communities that God loves them, that we love them, and are praying for them, aching with them, and most of all, that we remember their plight and grieve with them. We have hope for their recovery, and we encourage them to stand strong. When we deliver quilts, we pray for them and with them, hug them, and leave a precious heirloom-quality treasure that will tell the story of their strength and determination to the generations to follow, while offering them practical warmth and comfort now.

At the Quilt Dedication for our NC quilts at Christ Presbyterian Church on October 14, 2017

Dennis and I left home on October 29 with about 150 quilts from eastern NC quilters to deliver in TX, headed toward south Mississippi where we stopped for a visit with his parents "on the way." It was a great visit, where his mother overfed us, setting the tone for the amount of wonderful food we would eat on the entire trip. (Y'all, it's no sacrifice to serve in east Texas, where you can get outstanding Cajun food, Tex-Mex, steaks, and pretty much any other cuisine you desire.) 

We headed to Houston on November 2, since International Quilt Festival was going strong, and I'd never attended before. It was too "coincidental" to pass up the opportunity to visit Festival! I sold it to Dennis as the "Oshkosh of quilting," so he completely understood. If you ever get a chance to go to Houston for Festival, GO. The quilts magnificently portray the best the world has to offer, and the vendors cover the spectrum of every aspect of the quilt industry. We attended Festival on both Friday and Saturday, and loved every minute. See the full story of our two days at Festival here.

On Sunday, we arrived at our staging location in Winnie, Texas to meet the semi truck that was delivering nearly 2000 quilts for delivery in the region. Other members of the Disaster Response Team were still traveling, so it was up to Dennis and me to unload 135 bags of quilts into the small conference room that would be our home for the week. While we waited, we met several families in the hotel that were displaced from the storm, and we gifted them quilts. After we'd unloaded the truck, we had a few local friends of the ministry show up to help us organize the room a bit, and sort the quilts into categories like king/queen, twin, lap, youth, and infant. We weren't expecting the rest of the team until late Monday night, so Dennis and I decided to go ahead and drive to a local community we'd heard had been hit hard, and continue delivering the quilts that we'd brought with us from North Carolina. We headed to Port Arthur.

One of the first quilts I gifted this week was this "Wild Orchid" Cobblestones quilt that I'd pieced and quilted. The last quilt of my own that I gifted this week was its twin. I'm still trying to discipline myself not to order another jelly roll of Wild Orchid and more yardage to make another one for myself. Being a quilter in the business of giving away quilts means that you give away some quilts that you really, really love and would like to keep yourself. 

Sometimes with flooding it is difficult to tell which homes were affected and which weren't--we ran into that with the Columbia, SC floods, but were fortunate that Dennis had been there as the flood was receding, and had served families in the community, so we had some recon. Trust me when I say it is not difficult to tell where the flooding has affected Texas! It seemed every home in Port Arthur went underwater. We stopped in an obviously recovering neighborhood, and began going door-to-door. You can see a family we met at the top of this post. I can tell you a story from each house. We begin to be weighed down with the stories of these if you want to come over for a cup of coffee while I talk too fast, I'm happy to tell you all about the people of Port Arthur.

We decided to stay in Port Arthur that night to continue the work we'd started on Sunday afternoon, but when we woke up Monday morning, we had a text from Janice that she needed our help retrieving 500 more quilts from the APQS partners in Austin that had been collecting quilts for the area. So, we loaded up and drove to Austin and back on Monday. It was a fun adventure with a lot of Texas cattle land, a beautiful pit stop at a nature center, and awesome conversation with my best friend. We both really look forward to traveling together, and just have the best time doing it. We met Susan of Over the Top Quilting at her home (where she had also just returned from International Quilt Festival) and crammed 500 quilts in to the van, filling every available space. We actually had to reuse some of the vacuum bags I'd emptied the afternoon before, but everything eventually sorta fit.

Houston in the morning, Houston in the evening

Texas is gorgeous.

Stopped at a Nature Center for a travel break

...which afforded me an opportunity to snap a picture of my Cakewalk quilt (one of the sleeping quilts we brought with us for camping in the van).

Shoving 500 quilts in the van!

Filled to top!

We even reutilized my vacuum bags.

So thankful for our Mission Mobile!

When we got back to the hotel in Winnie, we unloaded the van, but decided to go ahead and check in so that we were ready to begin setting up the staging area with the rest of the team on Tuesday morning. Tuesday, November 7 would be "Day One" of our deployment as a Disaster Response TEAM. Follow the links to read about each day's work, summarized below:

Tuesday, November 7 Day One: Setting up the staging area, deliveries in Port Arthur, including how God brought us to Encounter Church on a Tuesday night
Wednesday, November 8  Day Two: Setting aside 650 quilts for Lincoln Middle School, plus 85 for faculty and staff, serving the staff in our hotel, preparing packages for families displaced from homes still in hotels, then deliveries in Sour Lake (particularly Countrywood Estates)
Thursday, November 9  Day Three: Preparing packages for families in our hotel, contacting area preschools and daycare centers, then delivery to Lincoln Middle School in Port Arthur
Friday, November 10  Day Four: Delivery to area preschools, daycare centers, and then Community Christian School

Finally, on Saturday, Dennis and I hugged Janice and Cindy goodbye, and headed to Houston to see my nephew Race ride in a two-day motocross event. It was a lovely extension of our trip where we "coincidentally" were close enough to support him and learn more about this hobby that is a significant part of his life. We left Houston on Sunday evening, and after stopping along the way, arrived at my parents' home on Monday, where we stayed for a short visit on our way back to North Carolina. It was a great way to combine mission, ministry, business and family, all on one long road trip. There and back again, we were gone October 29-November 17, and you could easily have to read 20 blog posts to capture it all. Thankfully, you will not have to...just six. Ha!

If you want to hear more after you read all this, just give me a call or email. I'm happy to talk with your guild about the ministry of Quilts of Compassion, or your family about ways to become involved. 

QOC Day Four November 10

We started our last day of the trip with lots of young child and infant quilts to distribute. The other team members had put in the groundwork of calling and arranging delivery to preschools and daycare centers in the region on Thursday, so Dennis and I loaded the van full of carefully bagged and counted quilts for delivery to Orange (on the Louisiana line), Nederland, and Beaumont. Janice and Cindy loaded their vehicle to head north and west. Our first stop was at Community Christian School preschool, where the 82 children were in chapel, and waiting for us to hand-deliver quilts to them. I felt a little bit like Oprah this week..."You can have a quilt, you can have a quilt, and you can have a quilt! EVERYBODY gets a quilt!" But Grams and Grampy have no fear of preschool children, so we waded right into the thick of them, opening bags and handing them quilts as appropriate for their gender. One little boy said, "Can I have a dinosaur quilt?" I said YES YOU CAN, then said a quick prayer that I'd find a dinosaur quilt in the bags. You quilters did not disappoint! Plenty of dinosaurs to go around for the little pack of boys that requested them after that. 

After all the sweet little ones had a quilt of their own, we were given a tour of the school by the preschool administrator. Esther informed us that the K12 school had been relocated to a furniture warehouse across town (owned by one of the granddaddies) while reconstruction takes place this year. The preschool had been prioritized, because licensing issues require certain facilities for young children. So while she and her 82 students are back where they belong, all of the older siblings are still displaced.

School kitchen

Teachers' classroom materials! They are coping without many items while relocated.

Esther Seaman with Dennis and me
Suddenly, it was pretty clear where those two hundred elementary quilts belonged! Esther called her counterpart at the K12 school, who was grateful that we could come. We contacted Janice and Cindy, who were available to go get the quilts in Winnie, and meet us in Orange at the K12 CCS in the afternoon. We continued on to deliver the other preschool quilts we'd prepared, visiting three centers in Nederland and Beaumont, before grabbing a quick sandwich, and heading back to Orange.

CCS meets in a furniture warehouse-turned-temporary school. Classes are meeting in the old showroom areas, and there are still upholstery samples on the wall. The Friday we were there was homecoming, so the kids were dressed in their "spirit" gear, and were super excited about the Powder Puff Football game they had that evening. You see, the flood canceled their regular football game...but they have a can-do spirit in Texas. Lots of flexibility.

Unlike the quick assembly we had at Lincoln Middle School, the children were able to come to an area where all of our remaining quilts were set up for them to peruse, and they got to choose a quilt to take. We started with the kindergarten, and went up each grade. Our concern was that the quilts left were too "young" for some of the older kids, but you know what? Once again our human expectations were just wrong. By the time we got to 11th grade, most of the kids were choosing for a neighbor's child, or a niece or nephew. They all "knew a kid" that needed a quilt. It was precious. Faculty had plenty to choose from for their own children, or grandchildren. A few were taken for "mom with dementia" or "grandmother in a nursing home."

Before we even left for the day, kids in the after school program were using their quilts as playmats and comfort. Like LMS, kids left with their quilts wrapped around them or clutched to their chest.

 Then our last stop of the day was in a daycare facility where most kids had lost everything. The highlight of that visit was a young child standing next to his dad while dad told us their rescue story. The child interrupted to exclaim, "I got to ride in a boat!" What a hoot, viewing the adventure of a flood from the eyes of a young child. Dad said that the kid keeps asking when there will be another flood...NOT SOON, we all pray.

Our TEAM ended the day with a nice Texas steak and potato dinner, and the sad realization that we wouldn't see each other again for a while. Dennis and I had served with Janice and Cindy last in Columbia, SC in January 2016, and it's completely believable that it could be nearly two years before we see them again. So, hugs, tears, and a lot of gratitude for social media, phones and texting!

We gave away every single quilt of the 3,000 quilts donated by quilters from all fifty states, plus Canada, Sweden and Germany. Eight people, four days, 3,000 quilts. When we signed up to go on this trip (and thought there would only be 1,500 quilts--ONLY! HA!), Dennis was concerned with the math of that equation. He was talking hours in a day (short days, it gets dark early), number of quilts we can fit in our van, how long it takes to meet a family and hear their story...the math just didn't add up. But as we talked over the meal on that last night, we were all reminded the unknown in our math equation that we were calculating was GOD. He proves over and over that He has a good plan, and it's much better than ours. I was repeatedly faithless all week, fretting over how far apart destinations were, how little time we were allowing, what the "plan" was...He was Faithful. Forgiving.

A final takeaway from our last day--we could have delivered 10,000 quilts. 50,000 quilts. FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND homes were affected by the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. That's as many as 2,000,000 people, or more. Plus schools, businesses...everywhere we looked, people are driving cars with temporary tags. Texas needs all the love, prayers and help you can send. Consider how you are called to Bring Hope and Encouragement to the Hurting.

QOC Day Three November 9

Thursday morning dawned with us realizing transporting 700 quilts would take every bit of space we had. So, we loaded all the kids quilts in our vehicles and ended up rebagging the adult quilts in contractor bags, hooking up the trailer, and carting that along also for the trip back to Port Arthur.

Once all the LMS quilts were loaded, then we could evaluate what was left, and package gift bags for the 35+ families in our own hotel that had been displaced by the flooding. Much like the day before, we had complete cooperation from hotel staff to protect the privacy of the residents, but give us enough information so that we could give appropriate quilts. As we approached the end of Day Three, we had done such a great job of distributing quilts as a team that we really had a limited supply of adult men and women's quilts left. But it is always a "fishes and loaves" thing with God, and we have sufficient to meet all the needs He brings us. We spent the rest of the morning calling preschools and daycares, arranging to deliver the rest of our children's and infant's quilts the following day. We had about 200 "elementary" aged children's quilts left and we just weren't sure yet where they would go. But half the team was leaving in the morning, and we were trusting that a delivery location would appear.

I do not have a single picture at Lincoln Middle School, in west Port Arthur. Out of respect for school policy of no pictures of students, I just left my phone in the van, as did Dennis. But OH MY GOODNESS...the sight of that stage with quilts stacked 10 deep in 60 piles across the entire stage...and then another row of gorgeous quilts for teachers and staff. And then the sight of those students filing in, one class at a time, to sit in those old wooden folding seats that we had in my high school auditorium (ugh) brought back so many memories. The cacophony of kids talking that weren't supposed to be talking, teachers demanding quiet that just wasn't going to appear prematurely, and the underlying vibration of excitement and anticipation. Teachers and staff hugging us, so grateful to be remembered. Story after story of flood rescues, living in campers, hotels, with family or friends. The local school board coming to thank us. And then the complete respect the student body showed for their principal when she called them to attention! It was beautiful. Kids began filing across the stage, choosing between two or three quilts we held up for them (based on gender, and random chance)...the whispered thank yous, the grateful hugs, pausing for their teacher to snap a quick picture with an ear to ear grin full of bravado...

And then the end of day. Kids filing out to the bus with their quilt wrapped over their shoulders or clutched tightly to their chest. Teachers coming back in to thank us again, and choose for their younger children from the pile remaining. Staff choosing for the faculty that were absent, or for children that were out, so that no one would feel left out or forgotten.

I have to say, it was a little picture of heaven. Everyone loved. Everyone blessed. God glorified.

We finished that beautiful night with a great dinner of Mexican food, and a sad goodbye to the members of our team that had to start their trips back the next morning. We planned a "divide and conquer" sort of day for Friday, with deliveries in far ranging communities. It did not disappoint.

QOC Day Two November 8

When we walked the neighborhoods of Port Arthur on Tuesday afternoon, we met a wonderful man and his sweet daughter, Donna. In bragging about his talented daughter, he mentioned she was a middle school principal. Well, that sounded GREAT to us, because on this deployment, we had a large number of youth and children's quilts, and we had been praying for a school to allow us to serve them. Donna is the sixth grade principal at a Port Arthur middle school (Lincoln Middle), and she arranged quickly and efficiently for us to deliver over 600 quilts to the 6-8th grade students at LMS on Thursday afternoon, as well as 80+ quilts to the faculty and staff members. So, we spent a large part of Wednesday morning setting aside the 700 quilts necessary for LMS students and staff, so that we would make sure that we didn't accidentally give the quilts away in our neighborhood walks in the afternoon. We sorted everything from "youthful" lap quilts to "bright" twin quilts, plus all the fleece and afghans that were appropriately sized for middle school kids. Then we counted when we thought we had enough...and doubled the pile. 600 quilts is HUGE.

Something that you may not realize is how many families are still living in hotels, MONTHS after the storm. On Tuesday night, while Dennis and I were at Encounter Church (see Day One for details), the other team members were contacting area hotels and finding out how many families we could serve. One area hotel had over 40 families, and so we bagged quilts by room with the appropriate distribution of quilts for the men, women, and children in each family unit. I cannot stress how fantastic the hotel staff are in assisting with this distribution. They protect hotel resident privacy, but allow us to gift appropriate quilts. "Family 1" is all we know, and they put the bag in their room. What a blessing.

And those yellow sheets? We include those with every quilt. They give the history of Quilts of Compassion, and the information about the organization (address/phone). It's important because often the family is still so shell-shocked from the disaster that all the service organizations just blur together. Later, when they think, "Who were those people?" they can look at the information in their leisure.

Another community hard hit by the flooding was the small town of Sour Lake, TX. We actually ended up staying in Winnie because one of Sour Lake's sweet residents that DIDN'T flood contacted Quilts of Compassion and asked us to come there. We had planned an "event" in Sour Lake that didn't work out, but God had a better plan. We drove up on Wednesday afternoon, and began walking the neighborhoods. The other three vehicles went to Pinewood, but Dennis and I went to Countrywood Estates, a neighborhood that reminded me of my parents' neighborhood.

The first home we visited had a camper in the driveway, and mother/daughter pair Lynette and Ashley sitting out front. We explained our purpose, gave their families quilts and heard their story, then told them that we were going to be in the neighborhood all afternoon. They asked if they could snap our picture and put it on their neighborhood Facebook page to "forewarn" the residents that we were coming. We thought that was a great idea. One thing that never fails to surprise me is that unscrupulous people take advantage of hurting people in crisis. This is why we wear a QOC uniform, including name badges and hats, so that we present a professional appearance and can give the residents comfort without apprehension.

Then an awesome thing happened. We began our "normal" distribution in the neighborhood, but Lynette quickly caught up with us in her car. She asked where we'd been (not far), and said the "Facebook page is blowing up with folks wanting to make sure they get a quilt before we leave!" She then proceeded to escort us around the neighborhood, introducing us to her neighbors, and assisting our deliveries. After a few minutes, Lynette handed us off to another neighbor, who then did the same thing! It was lovely to see how well they all loved each other. Family after family told the story of how they'd never really known their neighbors until the flood, and now they are all one big family. Having an escort meant it was easier than ever to get great pictures of people who loved their quilts.

At one point, several cars were behind us on the road, and Dennis thought he was causing a traffic jam. It turned out we WERE the traffic jam! Folks came to find us to get a quilt.

When we pulled up to the Texas A&M loving household, I thought, "Oh, I don't even have a good quilt in the van for an A&M family! If only had something in their shade of maroon..." And lo, and behold, a beautiful batik quilt is under a stack of kids' quilts, in just the right colors. How appropriate for this quilter who had her stack of quilts drenched in the flood, and had just returned from working at International Quilt Festival!
One person in the neighborhood cried and cried over her quilt, and when she finally gained some control said, "This quilt will tell the story of the Flood of 2017 to my family for generations." And then I cried, and cried...

We finished off our awesome day with dinner as a TEAM of eight, recapping the Lord's goodness and sharing flood stories and pictures over some delicious Cajun food. We parted for the night, anticipating an amazing afternoon at Lincoln Middle School the following day. We were not wrong.

QOC Day One November 7

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.

Since we hadn't planned this event, I was "restricted" to the quilts that I had left in the van after walking the neighborhoods in Port Arthur all afternoon. Many of the quilts distributed here, as a result, were the quilts I had brought with me from eastern NC. I love looking at these piles and recognizing the generosity of my friends and clients.

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.