Anna Marie Wanderer (left) and Matt Brewer work on their Mother’s Day project as “Grandma” Lynn Thomason helps Levi Wallis pick out some beads.
The quilt Grandma Lynn and her adoring kindergarten fans at Julia Randall Elementary School made features a fabric tree with little red handprints that are supposed to be apples.
“The children, they’re the first kindergarten class,” at the new Julia Randall, explained “Grandma” Lynn Thomason. “So when they get through fifth grade, then they can look back and see that they did this quilt.”
Thomason, who is retired but works part-time in Walmart’s fabric department, volunteers at Julia Randall making arts and crafts projects with kindergarten.
The 70-year-old attributes her youth to glee. “I exercise, I laugh, and I have fun with the kids,” she said.
Thomason’s optimism must also contribute to her continued health.
At 22, she ruptured her aorta and spleen in a car crash. “They said I had one chance in a million to live.” She made up her mind that she was going be that one chance in a million, and after that, she was going to help people.
“You get so much more back than you give,” Thomason said about volunteering at Julia Randall. “The kids are so open and honest.”
Thomason seemingly appreciates honesty. Growing up as a girl, her mother would have frank financial discussions about why they couldn’t have certain things.
“Things were rough back then,” Thomason said. But the woman lists math as one of her favorite school subjects — a leading indicator of Thomason’s unfailing pragmatic positivity.
One recent Thursday at Julia Randall, students were making bookmarks to stow in treasure boxes for Mother’s Day. Kids previously affixed beads and shells atop the lids of small gourmet coffee cans that Thomason had spray painted red.
Students also created dress-shaped cards that read “I love mom,” but with a heart shape substituting for the word “love.”
“It’s fun, you should make one for your mother,” recommended Emma VanZile.
Thomason donates all of the materials used, but she said her Walmart customers help. Much of the art consists of everyday objects like egg cartons or paper towel rolls.
“I try to teach the kids that you don’t have to have a lot of money to have fun,” Thomason said. “When you’re throwing something away I’m thinking what I can do with it.”
The quilt began when teacher Laura Hacker decided they should make something to decorate the new school.
Thomason decided on a quilt, and one of her Walmart coworkers who is a wildlife artist drew the tree on a piece of paper. After using the paper pattern to cut the tree, the kids helped Thomason sew it.
“They ran the peddle and I sewed,” Thomason said. She painted their hands red with a sponge brush dipped in paint, and the kids wrote their names in permanent marker.