"Quilts for the Coast" got Started:
grew up in Waveland, MS, graduated from Bay Sr. High School and
continued to call Waveland "home" until I sold the family
home in 1999. My parents' ashes were interred in the Christ Episcopal
Church memorial gardens in Bay St. Louis in 1990 and 1998, respectively.
I was there during Hurricane Camille when the flood waters rose
into our house and, like so many others, I thought it would never
get any worse. Katrina proved us all wrong. I cried for a week
after she destroyed the Gulf Coast. "Quilts for the Coast"
was conceived as a means to defy the horror and ugliness of that
devastation and destruction, to bring a bit of beauty back into
the lives of my friends and former neighbors. I vowed to personally
deliver the quilts and ensure they passed through no relief agency
where they might be subjected to plunder or other misuse. It was
a simple idea that grew
and continues to grow.
I first came up with the idea for this project, I contacted my
friend Debbie Woods-Tyer of Sewing Solutions in New Bern (who
endorsed it wholeheartedly) and together we issued a challenge
to quilters in this area: make a quilt for this project and bring
it to either of our shops by December 1, 2005 and as a personal
thank-you we would put your name in a "gratitude box"
and on December 2, 2005 draw out one name and, at our personal
expense, give that individual a new Pfaff sewing machine. We stressed
that this was not a contest or a raffle. Yes, we believe that
good works are their own reward, but an occasional carrot doesn't
hurt. When Pfaff heard about our project, they generously offered
to split the cost of the machine with us. Thank you, Pfaff!
shared the idea with my good friend Pepper Cory, who took it to
the next level. Pepper put our challenge on the internet via several
quilting chat lines. Soon we were receiving quilts from across
the country. "Quilts for the Coast" was now in full
About the Quilts and the Quilters:
realize that most people didn't participate in our project for
personal gain or recognition. However, I am so overwhelmed by
the response that I have to share some of it with you, beginning
with the West Coast and coming east. The following are the quiltmakers
who really and truly made this project possible (if we inadvertently
left anyone off, please forgive us and email me so we can add
you to the list!):
Lena's and The Peninsula Quilters in Long Beach, WA, who instructed
us that should we draw their name from the "gratitude box"
we were to find a woman who had lost everything and give her
the sewing machine. (Oh, but it gets much better where this
group is concerned! I had shared with them the story of one
particular Waveland resident, a woman in her 70s who was digging
through the rubble of her home looking for one thing only-a
quilt. The guild president was so moved by this story that she
contacted me with a plan of her own and made a custom quilt
for this woman using the colors of the original quilt. Aren't
quilters just the most wonderful bunch in the world?)
Bahr of Vancouver, WA
Crawford of Flower Box Quilts, Spokane, WA (one of hers was
a published quilt!)
Santa Monica Quilt Guild of Santa Monica, CA (one of their quilts,
a stunning batik courthouse steps that looked like a Monet garden,
we gave to the woman who for years headed the Altar Guild at
Christ Episcopal Church--that's the group that oversees the
LaCoss of Los Angeles, CA
Price of Elk Grove, CA
Quilters Affair in Albuquerque, NM
House in Clovis, NM
Loken of Apple Valley, MN
Craig of California (several of hers were published quilts!)
Reynolds of Keota, IA
Maxwell/Crazy Eighths of Chesterton, IN
Quilters in Mechanicsburg, PA
Munsey, Forestdale, MA
Blocks Together Quilt Guild, Bristol, CT
Crossing in West Nyack, NY
Hayes of Upper Montclair, NJ
Dudenhoeffer of Winchester, VA
Laurel Quilters Guild, Clarkesville, GA
LaCoss was the delighted recipient of the new Pfaff Quilter's
Edition. Through her encouragement, the Santa Monica Quilt Guild
made 52 quilts and has asked if they can continue making them
for this project. I told her as long as they keep making them,
I'll get them to the Gulf Coast!
Other Supporters of "Quilts for the Coast":
hard to find words adequate to express my gratitude for the support
we received for this effort, much of which exceeded my expectations.
I am reminded of what Mother Teresa said when she accepted the
Nobel Peace Prize: "We can do no great things. We can only
do small things with great love." The following showed great,
Frankle and Nancy Smith spent 3 days photographing the quilts
so we would have a record to share with you.
Warren Benton of Allied Moving generously donated the boxes
and tape we used to pack the 500+ quilts (another 230+ were
The ladies of the Emerald Isle Home Extension made and filled
Mary Beth Seidenfeld knitted a sack full of caps. Others donated
toys, stuffed animals and food for us to give out.
The people of my church, St. Peter's United Methodist in Morehead
City, NC, offered their prayers and donated their time to pack
the quilts, donated food, the church van and money to help defray
the cost of making the trip.
Fr. John Curlisto and St. Paul's Episcopal Church of Beaufort,
NC provided immeasurable support, both physical and spiritual.
Many, many others provided financial resources for us to share
with those in need.
Nikki Chisolm was our "Jackson connection".
To Jim and Michelle and the rest of Wells Church (all of whom
eschew public thanks) thanks for everything!
Diamondhead Baptist Church of Diamondhead, MS, generously let
us share their "volunteer bunker" and John and the
rest of the work crew from St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Birmingham,
AL, let us share their fabulous meal the night we arrived. We
received numerous emails from people who told us they were praying
for us and our safety (which was especially appreciated when
we returned home to discover we had been driving with a nail
in our left front tire!)
Peter's UMC cargo van was filled to capacity with quilts
The Trip to Deliver "Quilts for the Coast"
left Morehead City, NC at 6:00 am Friday, December 9, 2005. We
arrived in Jackson, MS around 8:00 pm that night and spent the
night with Jim and Michelle, some dear friends of mine. Saturday
we met with Nikki Chisolm (who started me quilting years ago)
to pick up another 55 quilts that had been shipped directly to
her to save us some van space on the trip down.
same morning we received an additional request from the coast,
the sort of call that brings home how bad things still are. We
were asked to purchase some laundry baskets so people could take
them to the rubble of their homes and use them to hold those items
they might yet find as they were digging through the debris. (Not
only did we purchase the laundry baskets, but we loaded up on
those wonderful new "Big Bags" that Ziploc has developed.)
had one small adventure en route to Waveland that cost us about
an hour's time. We accidentally dropped the oil cap into the engine
compartment and getting it out of the little niche where it was
wedged put us far enough behind schedule that Waveland would have
been under curfew before we could get there. So we went straight
to Diamondhead Baptist Church, which has been doing a phenomenal
job of accommodating and coordinating volunteers. The crew from
St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Birmingham, AL (who were erecting
a metal quonset hut for Christ Episcopal Church in Bay St. Louis)
kindly invited us to join their meal. Pepper whipped up some enchiladas
as our contribution, Rod made some tea and I scrubbed pots, pans
and racks. A wonderful time was had by all!!!
December 13 I saw Waveland for the first time since Katrina. I
knew from the photographs I'd seen that the devastation was extensive
and I remembered what things had looked like first-hand after
Camille. However, that didn't stop me from dissolving into tears
when I saw the destruction for myself. Three miles out an 18-wheel
trailer was imbedded in the roof of a building. As we got closer,
buildings were completely flattened as far as could be seen. I
visited what was left of the house that was "home" to
me for 42 years and found myself thanking God my mother did not
live to see this. She refused to leave that house during any hurricane
and was, at the same time, terrified of drowning (she couldn't
swim)-I have little doubt that she would have drowned in Katrina's
floodwaters or else been driven mad by them.
Picture taken from 3rd floor window
at st. Stanislaus when Katrina came
was struck by the combination of humor, faith and resilience that
was evident. One woman I know had placed two plastic skeletons
in a ruined car on her lot with a sign, "Waiting for FEMA".
Shoreline Baptist Church had a handmade banner proclaiming, "The
ship may be battered but the Anchor holds". Several signs
announced simply, "We're not leaving".
arrived at the slab that was once the Christ Episcopal Church
building. An awning tent had been erected to provide cover during
the worship service. We and our gifts were greeted with great
joy. The sight of a little boy giving his new teddy bear a ride
on his shoulders was priceless. A little girl clutched a Christmas
stocking to her chest. Parishioners snuggled under quilts during
the service to ward off the chill. After the service, people took
quilts to share with their neighbors who had also lost everything.
Their excitement at this task surprised me until I realized this
was probably the first time since Katrina took everything that
they had an opportunity to give something new and beautiful to
someone else. When one small boy and his mom selected quilts to
take to his first grade classmates the next day, I wept. One woman
who had recently lost her cat clutched a cat quilt and cried.
Another friend of mine, who lost her home to Katrina but has remained
both in her community and at her job at the local hospital, took
some quilts to give to patients.
wept over these quilts, they laughed, they smiled. They especially
enjoyed reading the labels people put on them. Knowing what we
brought weren't just castoffs or leftovers (what one friend of
mine has dubbed "Junk for Jesus"), but were items made
"just for them" meant so much. As one lady said, "A
blanket keeps you warm and that's nice, but a quilt--well, a quilt
is special." And as you'll see from the pictures, I hope
was one of the most hurricane-prepared towns in the United States.
As Mayor Tommy Longo said in his testimony before Congress on
December 8, 2005, "Waveland was prepared for a hurricane.
We were not prepared for Katrina.". The need is still great
in Hancock County (where Waveland is located) and any help you
can provide will be welcomed. (Please visit the Christ Episcopal
Church website for more pictures and information.)
bless everyone who helped make "Quilts for the Coast"