Around this time nine years ago, I found myself far from home and family facing a medical issue with one of my children.
Thanksgiving was spent at the Ronald McDonald House near the San Diego Children’s Hospital, and although a local hotel provided an incredible feast fit for a king, the circumstances that each of the families faced, created an atmosphere of despair rather than festivity.
Like the others, I missed my family terribly. That night the manager of the house knocked on my door — with a huge smile she led me down the hallway to a table stacked with the most beautiful homemade quilts I had ever seen.
Baffled, I looked at her wondering why she had brought me there, but she explained that I was to pick out any quilt that I wanted to give to my daughter. Although embarrassed to take such a beautiful gift from someone I had never even met, at her urging, I found a lovely blanket with dancing kitten ballerinas in many shades of lavender and pink.
To this day, the quilt is a poignant reminder of the generosity of a group of people who I never met and probably never will, who simply wanted to bless someone who was going through a difficult time.
And so it was that when I met Willene Smith of the DPS Quilt Angels Chapter of the Arizona Quilters Guild, I knew I wanted to get to know her better.
The guild has provided the Department of Public Safety (DPS) with more than 5,500 quilts since 1990 when the program began. Back then, Willene was browsing through an Arizona Quilters Guild newsletter when she spotted a request regarding ideas for local groups that the organization might be able to make quilts for.
Because both her husband and son have a background in law enforcement, Willene immediately thought of DPS — after all, they have officers all over the state, so the quilts would benefit many people throughout Arizona rather than just one specific region.
When she made the suggestion at the next meeting, she was immediately charged with getting the program started. That was October 1989. She set a goal to have 100 quilts ready by the April 1990 meeting, but by January, she had already received 200 finished child-sized quilts!
Willene is quick to point out that she is just one of many women who has made this amazing endeavor possible. She gives a lot of credit to co-chair Gloria Fohr’s exceptional organizational skills and the dozens of women who have a passion to use their talents to bless others. And this is really the heart of the program — to provide each DPS officer with a child’s quilt so that they can offer comfort to those who have been traumatized in any way.
Although the DPS is the primary recipient, the DPS Quilt Angels have also provided quilts to our local police and fire departments, as well as the Time Out Shelter.
Although the Quilt Angels rarely know who receives their quilts, they sometimes hear from the officers about circumstances when the quilts were used. The only thing that the Angels require is that they be used to bless those in need. So far, the quilts have been a source of comfort to not only children, but the elderly, newborns, and even a dog who had been hit by a car.
Once, a DPS Angel recognized one of their quilts being clutched by a child in a Laundromat. When she commented on the beautiful quilt the child smiled and said, “My angel gave it to me.” The real-life angel just smiled knowing that it had served the purpose for which it had been made.
So how do the Angels manage to supply the 700-plus DPS cars with enough quilts? Through dedicated, year-round passion to meet twice a month plus a three-day quilt-a-thon held once a year where they work nonstop, cutting, assembling and sewing. When I asked where they get all the material to make the quilts, Willene smiled and said that they never refuse a donation — to date they have always had the materials they need! The DPS Quilt Angels welcome any who have a heart to serve and bless. If you would like to know more about this wonderful group, you can call Willene Smith at (928) 476-3587.
The DPS Quilt Angels Chapter of the Arizona Quilters Guild is also sponsoring tomorrow’s Tellebration event at the Pine Cultural Hall. Dinner at the senior center begins at 5 p.m. and the show follows at 7 p.m.
Willene asked me to let parents know that children attend free when accompanied by a paying adult.
Since the adult tickets for the show are only $5, the Tellebration is an inexpensive, fun event for everyone in your family. Children and adults alike will enjoy the eight master storytellers as they spin their tales. If you haven’t already purchased your tickets, you may pay at the door.
All of the proceeds from this unique evening will go to the Pine-Strawberry Food Bank, and the sponsors are asking everyone to bring a can of food to donate if possible.
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, please consider the many folks in our area who are struggling to provide for their families.
Marti Heinert and the rest of the folks at the Pine-Strawberry Food Bank are putting together boxes for these families to help bless them this Thanksgiving. If you would like to make a donation, please give Marti a call at (928) 476-6469, or drop off your items at one of the fire stations in Pine or Strawberry.
It’s time to start gearing up for the annual Pine-Strawberry Elementary School Christmas Tree Auction.
The auction helps raise funds for field trips, classroom supplies, and many other necessities for the students. If you’ve attended in the past, you already know that the bidding is a fun, spirited tradition in our community.
This year’s auction will be held at 6 p.m., Friday, Dec. 5, so mark your calendars now.
Even if you don’t need a tree, you may want to purchase some of the Christmas and holiday cards made by the students or just come to meet Santa, enjoy cookies and hot cocoa, and get into the holiday spirit along with your neighbors.
The Isabelle Hunt Memorial Library has received its shipment of one-pound boxes of delicious See’s Candy.
If you were not able to pre-order, there are some extra boxes that will make perfect Christmas gifts, plus many smaller selections for stocking stuffers. There are several varieties to choose from, so you can satisfy all the people on your holiday shopping list while benefiting our library!
Although times have been tough for many in our country lately, I sincerely hope that you may find many reasons to give thanks in the coming week.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving!