The first phase of our Texas Fire Relief Effort took place on Saturday, December 3 in Bastrop, Texas. The members of the Lost Pines Quilters set up the distribution site and played Santa's Helpers during the giveaway from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
SANTA'S HELPERS: Back Row from left to right: Judy Harvell, Stephanie Gaskill, Lyn Gaskill, Debbie Higgins and Renee Gray. In the front is Judy Harding. All are members of Lost Pines Quilters. Lyn, Debbie and Renee are also Stitchmap members. Stephanie and Debbie lost their homes to the fires. Debbie is currently rebuilding. Stephanie moved into a new home and was evacuated out of that in a matter of days. She is now resettled.
There were stockings of all sizes (over 100 were sent down), bags of ornaments for each stocking recipient and extra ornaments set out on the tables for those who didn't want a stocking. The ladies set all the kits and patterns and books out at the far end of the table and let everyone choose what they would like to work on during the pre-holiday season.
Lyn shared with me that there were 20 families who were represented that day, for a combined total of over 50 people given help. More than 100 stockings were donated. Several people opted not to take a stocking at all, taking only a few of the 282 donated ornaments or a couple of the 100+ Christmas kits and patterns. There seemed to be a sense of wanting to make sure there was enough left for everyone else who might come after them.
Mothers brought in their children to choose their own stockings and you could tell it was a MAJOR decision for each child. Very important stuff...had to make sure the stocking was just the right size, style, and color. Afterall, it had to be able to hold all the stuff Santa would bring. The first stocking chosen was a candy cotton pink cotton with a full lace overlay held down with strategically placed sequins tacked down with seed beads. The cuff was a quilted white fabric. The young lady who chose it.....Sugar was her name...was speechless because she couldn't believe someone had made something so perfect...just for her.
Stitchmap member, Debbie H., who lost her home to the fires of Bastrop, is helping a young mother and her children find something to brighten their day, too!
One lady, mother of a 3 yr. old, hugged a volunteer, broke down and cried, "I didn't know there were people like all of you in this world. Thank you so much!" She had watched as the first day of fires took the home of her neighbor, but spared hers. Then, her home was burned to the ground when the fire turned with the wind and roared through the same area again. She has been slowly trying to recover while living with family.
Even the grandmothers were there, choosing stockings and/or ornaments for their grandkids so that they would be able to give them "a little something" this year in spite of the expense it is going to take to rebuild. It was an emotional day for everyone.
Another lady confided that she was reluctant to remain in the room when she first got there. It all seemed too overwhelming to think that they could be getting the help from perfect strangers. But Lyn and the crew talked her into coming in and choosing something. She was immediately drawn to the large stockings made from an old patchwork quilt. She broke down and sobbed while telling the ladies that her grandmother had been a quilter and she had lost her grandmother's quilts in the fire. These stockings reminded her so much of those quilts. She had to leave the room due to the emotion. Lyn wrapped up the stockings, went out into the hall and tucked them under the lady's arm. They are going to a home where they will be very much loved and cherished.
Sugar and her mother perusing the stockings. Note the old patchwork quilt stockings on the right side of the table, bordered in a red binding mentioned above.
Since the distribution Lyn has received additional calls from ladies who were away from the area on the day of distribution or who had heard about it from friends. She is allowing them to come and pick out things at her house until the supply is gone. The final figures on the number of people who were helped might not be in until after Christmas. The Bastrop advertiser sent a reporter and a photographer to cover the event and the story appeared in the paper this past Wednesday. Hopefully, more people will get the news and contact Lyn for some of what is still available.
There were two special drawings held. Each person who attended got an opportunity ticket to put into the drawing box. At the end of the day two names were drawn for the special prizes. The blackwork wall hanging banner of the Three Wisemen was won by Annette H. and the beautiful hostess apron done in a cross stitched holiday design was won by Bobbie P. Both of these ladies were thrilled.
There was a lot of sharing going on in that room. Sharing of stories about the fire, the recovery process and the healing. Sharing of stash and stitching news. Many of the ladies asked about information on how to join Stitchmap and the Lost Pines Quilters. New friends were made and hope was renewed.
Everyone who attended will be invited back to the Phase 2 distribution of general stash in February. We have asked to tell their friends about the event. In talking with the attendees we discovered that many of the ladies who came to this event were not members of quilt groups, guilds or formal needlework groups. The majority were homemakers who loved to stitch for family and friends but had not had time to join with others for workshops, etc. They didn't shop at the local fabric or quilt shops, didn't attend the guilds. They were calling themselves "crafters" and bought most of their stitching supplies at hobby shops like Michael's and Hobby Lobby. Most of them were looking for kits that were complete so that they could stitch right away and get back to something that brought them relaxation and pleasure after a busy day. Many thought it would be a much longer time before they could have afforded kits and patterns like they had to choose from in that room that day.
The smiles on their faces as they left made it all worth the effort! Thanks to everyone who sent stockings, fabric, kits, books, patterns, ornaments and anything else that we sent down there for the Christmas Giveaway. May your holidays be as full of hope and cheer as that which you gave to these ladies and their families!!!
This is Michele Pittman, a member of Stitchmap and Lost Pines Quilters. She also lost her home in the fires. Here she is making a selection of a crazy quilt kit and ornaments for tree as she starts over again and begins stitching in her new apartment.
Many thanks to those families that allowed us to use their pictures in this post. They made it possible to put a face to the story. We wish you all a Blessed Holiday Season.