Saturday, February 29, 2020

Ocracoke Visit and Quilt Distribution February 2020

I wanted to update the blog on our first trip to the island to distribute the quilts that we'd made so far from blocks arriving from all over the country (and world--I'm looking at you, Australia!). Thank you so much for partnering with me to love Ocracoke and its people. They are a hearty bunch, but this hurricane hit them harder than any storm in many years.

We took the ferry over from Hatteras and were on the boat at sunset. It's a four hour drive from our house to the ferry in Hatteras, so although we left earlyish on Monday morning, we ended up on the 5pm ferry.

I finished binding this quilt on the drive to the island, which gave us 33 Ocracoke Cracker quilts completed, along with 12 other quilts, for a total of 45 quilts to distribute on this first trip.
I'm getting ahead of myself a little. Dennis and I have been following the island's recovery on social media (and of course, sewing and quilting and binding and labeling), and the first week of February I saw a post from Jason Wells, owner of Jason's Restaurant on Ocracoke, that he and his wife Brooke had a load of drywall and subfloor to install in the gutted home they hoped to move into as soon as possible, and could use help with the installation. Of course, drywall is our very favorite thing to do when we volunteer with Eight Days of Hope, so we talked about it, prayed about it, contacted Jason, and volunteered to come help.

Jason is one of those people (and there are a bunch of them) who has been loving his neighbors well. While his kitchen in his restaurant is out, he has been serving meals at the Ocracoke Community Center for six months several times per week, eventually tapering off to just a couple of meals a week. Last Tuesday was the final meal at the Ocracoke Strong Kitchen, so Jason can focus on getting his restaurant open in May.

I'm not going to post a ton of photos of Jason & Brooke's home or their address, but trust me when I say the entire home needed sheetrock from 4' down, and this long entryway/foyer had an open window that had to be framed and closed in. I'm so glad my husband has the tools and ability to do practically anything.
So, we arrived on Monday evening, and went to work on Tuesday morning. We finished two bedrooms the first day while Jason and Brooke installed insulation in their exterior walls, then moved on to mudding (my job on Wednesday) while Dennis trained Brooke how to run the screw gun and then Jason and Brooke took over installing sheetrock themselves while Dennis framed in that window and cut and installed drywall himself in other areas. Thursday they both had other obligations, so we took the morning off to walk the neighborhood by the lighthouse and distribute quilts.

The residential area near the lighthouse is one of the areas with the families who have lived on the island for generations. I bagged up a dozen quilts, and we went for a walk.

We thought it would be easier to offer the quilts as a "gift" (and included the letter explaining our project) from bags, as well as easier to carry. When I deployed with Quilts of Compassion in Texas, we had learned that these bags from Dollar Tree were great for quilts since they are "nondescript" but very loving, so I've been stockpiling them. I thought I had a lot of them, but I've run out. If you have a Dollar Tree and want to pick up bags to send with your blocks, I'd appreciate it.

It was truly a "coincidence" (we understand Providence) that we were distributing quilts on February 13 & 14!
My sweet husband ADORES cats. The cats on Ocracoke have their own social media (Ocracats!) and came running to welcome us to the island. Okay, mostly welcome him, because Dennis and cats are like peas and carrots.

It slowed us down a little...but oh, how he loved the cats.

We distributed a dozen quilts that morning door-to-door, and met some very sweet residents at their homes. Various stages of rebuilding were in action, really all depending on how much assistance they'd been able to get or how many skills they already had. We met a few people that I "knew" from our social media connections, so I made sure to get those helpers a quilt.

Friday morning we finished up the drywall installation at Jason and Brooke's house, and Dennis decided that we'd try to catch an afternoon ferry and head home.

We had decided that since Jason was serving lunch at the kitchen that I would be able to distribute the rest of the quilts to residents as they arrived to pick up their lunch.

I had bagged up all the remaining quilts, including using a few pillowcases that had been donated as bags for larger quilts. Dennis was visiting with residents, and almost forgot to snap a picture. At this point, I only had five quilts left! Also, you'll notice that I didn't dress "fancy" for distributing quilts. I was hanging drywall that morning, so I went in my work clothes. Remember, it isn't about how you LOOK, it's about how you LOVE.

I saved a special quilt for Jason and Brooke, of course. We also sent one to Brooke's grandmother and to their son (which happened to be 100% cat fabric, and so perfect for an Ocracoke young man).

Pictures started showing up on social media after we left.

And of course, even an Ocracat got to enjoy a quilt! (This quilt is one of the "Super Cracker" quilts that I made.)
 Since we returned, I've resumed piecing and quilting and binding and labeling quilts to prepare for our next visit. I expect that may wait until June to give us time to have 50 more quilts ready to go. If you are working on blocks, please send them to me as you can. I really love the scrappy quilts that are made by as many as 42 different quiltmakers! They have a spectacular vibrancy.

But you know what!?!? I love packages like this, too! Since I've returned, I got a box with a finished, quilted and bound Ocracoke Cracker quilt from a quiltmaker in Virginia...

...And this box from my dear friend with the Alamance Piecemakers near Burlington, NC, who have decided to work together to make finished quilts to send me as often as they get a couple done. What a blessing!

If you've made it this far, thank you for reading my ramblings. There's so much more I could share, and so many more stories. Coming up in March, I am visiting the Twin Rivers Quilt Guild in New Bern to update them on the project (and thank them for the HUNDREDS of blocks they handed to me at our Day of Sharing in December). It truly takes more than a village to pull off a project like this. I am just one person, and I personally have made three quilts from start to finish, and contributed a big ole stack of blocks to the scrappy quilts. But together we had 45 quilts to distribute thanks to your block donations, your top donations, your finished quilt donations, and your love for Ocracoke. I quilted up two more tops yesterday, and have bindings to add to three quilts this weekend. Maybe I'll get one or two more in the frame before Monday.

Continue to pray for Ocracoke. Schedule your summer vacation there, or shop their businesses online. And send me blocks! I still need at least 4,200 more blocks to make another 100 quilts.

PS We did get to eat some wonderful food on the island, but right now, only about five restaurants are open. We got our morning coffee fix at The Magic Bean, ate amazing food for lunch from the Suazos food truck, had great options two nights at Plum Pointe, Sorella's Pizza one evening, and then topped off the week with an extravagant meal at The Flying Melon for our Valentine's Day. As if I didn't already adore Ocracoke...oh, the carbs! LOL! It was divine.