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How "Quilts for the Coast" got Started:

I 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 grew…and continues to grow.

When 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!

I 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 swing.


About the Quilts and the Quilters:

I 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!):

  • Anna 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?)
  • Janet Bahr of Vancouver, WA
  • Michelle Crawford of Flower Box Quilts, Spokane, WA (one of hers was a published quilt!)
  • The 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 flowers)
  • Judy LaCoss of Los Angeles, CA
  • Freda Price of Elk Grove, CA
  • A Quilters Affair in Albuquerque, NM
  • Patchwork House in Clovis, NM
  • Jean Loken of Apple Valley, MN
  • Sharon Craig of California (several of hers were published quilts!)
  • Andi Reynolds of Keota, IA
  • Ellen Maxwell/Crazy Eighths of Chesterton, IN
  • Letort Quilters in Mechanicsburg, PA
  • Sandra Munsey, Forestdale, MA
  • Building Blocks Together Quilt Guild, Bristol, CT
  • Quilters Crossing in West Nyack, NY
  • Dawn Hayes of Upper Montclair, NJ
  • Barbara Dudenhoeffer of Winchester, VA
  • Mountain Laurel Quilters Guild, Clarkesville, GA
  • From North Carolina:
  • Katy Arthur
  • Patty Arthur
  • Ilene Brown
  • Patti Brown
  • Pepper Cory
  • Marilyn DeVries
  • Mary Frankle
  • Vicky Garner
  • Dot Gibson
  • Beverly Hunt
  • Terri Kuneyl
  • Bess Lawrence
  • Janet McLean
  • Anne Hope Marvin
  • Doris Munka
  • Joan Paschal
  • Karen Preston
  • Mary Beth Seidenfeld
  • Jan Spickett
  • Eillen Williams

Judy 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":

It's 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, great love:

  • Mary 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 shipped separately).
  • The ladies of the Emerald Isle Home Extension made and filled Christmas stockings.
  • 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!)

St. Peter's UMC cargo van was filled to capacity with quilts

The Trip to Deliver "Quilts for the Coast"

We 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.

That 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.)

We 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!!!

On 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 in.

I 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".

We 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.

People 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 you'll agree.


Waveland 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.)

God bless everyone who helped make "Quilts for the Coast" a reality!