|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't...you 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.
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 families...so 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.