Giving Back

My family and I live very comfortable lives. We don’t have to question where money for food, shelter, or clothing will come from, yet there are billions of people around the world who go to bed hungry, dirty, unclothed and unprotected by the elements. While I won’t be able to impact most of those people’s lives, I can impact some of them, and that’s my goal. My thought is that if each of us reached out in some way to help our fellow man, the world be a kinder place. Idealistic? Perhaps. Let’s face it though, if you have a computer and the internet access needed to read this post, you most likely have an hour or two and a dollar or two a week to spare, if not more.

 

I’m certainly not the most religious person around, but I adore whoever came up with the WWJD (What would Jesus Do?) acronym. Brilliant! Plan your actions based on what an unbelievably kind, giving, compassionate soul would do. That, to me, is what life is about. It’s not about sitting on a pew in church and then gossiping about your fellow parishioners, but rather about walking the talk. We won’t live up to the WWJD charge at all times, having it as a constantly present goal seems a fantastic way to keep compassion and human kindness navigate your actions.

 

Ugly Quilting

 

Photo of laid out quilt: An Ugly Quilt that’s been stuffed and is ready to roll!

 

Every Friday for three years a gaggle of wonderful women plopped themselves down on my living room floor and repurposed used sheets, blankets, material swatches and men’s ties into sleeping bag quilts for Chicago’s homeless. Our home was a veritable quilt factory. We were participating in a program called “Ugly Quilting”, whose name allows the quilt creators to shift their sewing focus from aesthetics to functionality: the quilts don’t need to be perfect or even marginally attractive, they just need to serve as protection from the elements. Actually, if they are beautiful or brand new, chances are that much greater that they’ll be stolen. For most of the quilt recipients, it’s the only thing that forms a barrier between them and the pavement. Between them and the rain and the wind and the cold. In essence, these bedrolls are their temporary homes.

 

Photo of Quilters: A handful of my lovely Ugly Quilters (LUQs) and a few of our final products.

 

You may see mismatched sleeping bags in this photo, but I see my old family room curtains, material for a dress I never got around to sewing, and half a dozen fashion-challenged ties I confiscated from my husband’s side of the closet that were happy to lend a hand.

 

The smaller quilts actually go to displaced kids who live in vehicles or homeless shelters. (Does that not just break your heart?) My son, Spencer, often donated some of his stuffed animals to include in the kid quilts.

 

Our desire was that each quilt wraps its owner in love and hope, and lets them know that someone out there somewhere cares.

 

Once we completed the quilts, we stuffed each quilt with a bag of toiletries, hand and foot warmers, gloves, a hat, socks, a t-shirt, and sweats and then rolled the bag into an easy-to-carry bundle. My husband and boys would help load the bedrolls into the back of my SUV and haul them down to a group in Lombard called the “Chicago Homeless Sandwich Run”. Jim and Virginia Proffitt founded this organization, and have spent every weekend for the last 20+ years preparing and delivering 1,000 sack lunches to homeless vets in the city. The only time they take off is during VeteranOur quilts were lucky enough to tag along with them in the old Viet Now truck they drove downtown on Sundays, and were handed out, as needed, throughout the day.

Here are some facts you should know and chew on and try to swallow. According to a study from HUD, “On a single night in January 2013, there were 610,042 people experiencing homelessness in the United States, including 394,698 people who were homeless in sheltered locations and 215,344 people who were living in unsheltered locations.” Almost 60,000, or nearly 10%, of those homeless people were veterans. They served in the armed services to safeguard our freedom, and, then, due to PTSD, alcoholism, drug addiction, physical handicaps, etc., find themselves without a home. How does such a thing happen? How can the strongest nation in the world not take care of its former freedom fighters? It’s beyond my comprehension.

 

Pillowcase Dresses

 

By mid winter of our fourth quilting year, we had completed 250 homemade quilts, and were all feeling the need to shake things up a bit. What other creative project could we take on within our little circle of friends that would truly help people? A brainstorming session yielded an answer: we’d begin sewing clothing for girls in need. “Dress A Girl Around the World” is an organization that provides easy-to-make pillowcase dresses for girls in Asia, Africa, Central America, and even parts of North America.

 

In many cases, the dress these girls receive will be their first item of clothing ever. They live in abject poverty, and if there’s a choice to be made between food, shelter and clothing, food and shelter always win. Apparently when the girls are clothed in a nice dress compared to rags or nothing at all it helps keep sexual predators at bay. A new dress sends a message that the child is looked after and cared for by someone, so back off. I can’t begin to explain how sad I feel to think that an item of clothing is the difference between being ravaged and not, but since that’s the reality we’re dealing with, we’re going to keep sewing! And so our Friday circle-of-friends gatherings continue on, this time with a focus on girls in need.

 

Actually, I’ve had so much fun creating unique dresses for these girls. Honestly, I’m a little consumed with the next new design I can come up with. After having seen many photos of the dresses, a friend said that she always pictures a little girl with swinging braids twirling around with joy in her new dress. It’s a sweet thought to hold on to.

 

Giving Back

 

My family and I live very comfortable lives. We don’t have to question where money for food, shelter, or clothing will come from, yet there are billions of people around the world who go to bed hungry, dirty, unclothed and unprotected by the elements. While I won’t be able to impact most of those people’s lives, I can impact some of them, and that’s my goal. My thought is that if each of us reached out in some way to help our fellow man, the world be a kinder place. Idealistic? Perhaps. Let’s face it though, if you have a computer and the internet access needed to read this post, you most likely have an hour or two and a dollar or two a week to spare, if not more.

 

I’m certainly not the most religious person around, but I adore whoever came up with the WWJD (What would Jesus Do?) acronym. Brilliant! Plan your actions based on what an unbelievably kind, giving, compassionate soul would do. That, to me, is what life is about. It’s not about sitting on a pew in church and then gossiping about your fellow parishioners, but rather about walking the talk. We won’t live up to the WWJD charge at all times, having it as a constantly present goal seems a fantastic way to keep compassion and human kindness navigate your actions.

 

Ugly Quilting

 

Photo of laid out quilt: An Ugly Quilt that’s been stuffed and is ready to roll!

 

Every Friday for three years a gaggle of wonderful women plopped themselves down on my living room floor and repurposed used sheets, blankets, material swatches and men’s ties into sleeping bag quilts for Chicago’s homeless. Our home was a veritable quilt factory. We were participating in a program called “Ugly Quilting”, whose name allows the quilt creators to shift their sewing focus from aesthetics to functionality: the quilts don’t need to be perfect or even marginally attractive, they just need to serve as protection from the elements. Actually, if they are beautiful or brand new, chances are that much greater that they’ll be stolen. For most of the quilt recipients, it’s the only thing that forms a barrier between them and the pavement. Between them and the rain and the wind and the cold. In essence, these bedrolls are their temporary homes.

 

Photo of Quilters: A handful of my lovely Ugly Quilters (LUQs) and a few of our final products.

 

You may see mismatched sleeping bags in this photo, but I see my old family room curtains, material for a dress I never got around to sewing, and half a dozen fashion-challenged ties I confiscated from my husband’s side of the closet that were happy to lend a hand.

 

The smaller quilts actually go to displaced kids who live in vehicles or homeless shelters. (Does that not just break your heart?) My son, Spencer, often donated some of his stuffed animals to include in the kid quilts.

 

Our desire was that each quilt wraps its owner in love and hope, and lets them know that someone out there somewhere cares.

 

Once we completed the quilts, we stuffed each quilt with a bag of toiletries, hand and foot warmers, gloves, a hat, socks, a t-shirt, and sweats and then rolled the bag into an easy-to-carry bundle. My husband and boys would help load the bedrolls into the back of my SUV and haul them down to a group in Lombard called the “Chicago Homeless Sandwich Run”. Jim and Virginia Proffitt founded this organization, and have spent every weekend for the last 20+ years preparing and delivering 1,000 sack lunches to homeless vets in the city. The only time they take off is during VeteranOur quilts were lucky enough to tag along with them in the old Viet Now truck they drove downtown on Sundays, and were handed out, as needed, throughout the day.

Here are some facts you should know and chew on and try to swallow. According to a study from HUD, “On a single night in January 2013, there were 610,042 people experiencing homelessness in the United States, including 394,698 people who were homeless in sheltered locations and 215,344 people who were living in unsheltered locations.” Almost 60,000, or nearly 10%, of those homeless people were veterans. They served in the armed services to safeguard our freedom, and, then, due to PTSD, alcoholism, drug addiction, physical handicaps, etc., find themselves without a home. How does such a thing happen? How can the strongest nation in the world not take care of its former freedom fighters? It’s beyond my comprehension.

 

Pillowcase Dresses

 

By mid winter of our fourth quilting year, we had completed 250 homemade quilts, and were all feeling the need to shake things up a bit. What other creative project could we take on within our little circle of friends that would truly help people? A brainstorming session yielded an answer: we’d begin sewing clothing for girls in need. “Dress A Girl Around the World” is an organization that provides easy-to-make pillowcase dresses for girls in Asia, Africa, Central America, and even parts of North America.

 

In many cases, the dress these girls receive will be their first item of clothing ever. They live in abject poverty, and if there’s a choice to be made between food, shelter and clothing, food and shelter always win. Apparently when the girls are clothed in a nice dress compared to rags or nothing at all it helps keep sexual predators at bay. A new dress sends a message that the child is looked after and cared for by someone, so back off. I can’t begin to explain how sad I feel to think that an item of clothing is the difference between being ravaged and not, but since that’s the reality we’re dealing with, we’re going to keep sewing! And so our Friday circle-of-friends gatherings continue on, this time with a focus on girls in need.

 

Actually, I’ve had so much fun creating unique dresses for these girls. Honestly, I’m a little consumed with the next new design I can come up with. After having seen many photos of the dresses, a friend said that she always pictures a little girl with swinging braids twirling around with joy in her new dress. It’s a sweet thought to hold on to.