After tornadoes tore through parts of Kentucky earlier this month, a local quilting guild stepped up to bring comfort to those who need it most.
According to national media reports, the death toll from the twisters that hit Kentucky Dec. 10-11 has surpassed 70. WLKY reported Sunday the count is 78, with all missing persons now being accounted for.
The report also estimated over 1,000 buildings, including homes, were destroyed across Kentucky.
Through its subgroup Heart Strings Charities, Monroe County-area quilt guild Friends in Stitches donated 37 quilts to fabric store Hancock’s of Paducah. From there, Hancock’s distributed them throughout the community.
“I hope it makes a great impact,” said Janice Whelan, Heart Strings’ coordinator. “It’s something they need to stay warm and it makes them feel like other people care. We want to make sure that people understand we’re all in this together and we’re behind them and support them in their clean up efforts and rebuilding.”
For those who have lost so much, having their very own quilt can make quite a difference, the group believes.
“It’s giving them something that belongs to them and it’s theirs, because they have lost everything,” Friends in Stitches President Pearl Braun said.
In the past, Heart Strings has donated quilts to a variety of local organizations, ranging from the Fisher House at Jefferson Barracks, which provides a place for those who have family members being treated at the military veterans hospital, to House of Neighborly Service.
But, after seeing a call for help from Handcock’s of Paducah, Braun knew it was time to reach outside the group’s previous bounds.
“We knew there were a lot of people in need down there and we just really wanted to put smiles on some of their faces,” Braun said.
On Wednesday, Braun and her husband drove to Kentucky with the 37 quilts in tow.
“When I went on their website, they had their address on there where you could mail it to them, and my husband and I both said, ‘It’s supposed to get cold, let’s just deliver them and they’ll get them right away,” Braun explained. “Not only that, to mail 37 quilts … would have been costly.”
According to Hancock’s Facebook page, the business has received so many donations like those from Braun that they are currently hitting “pause” on accepting any more donations at this time.
The quilts were previously made for other projects, but when the pandemic hit, they sat unused as it was too dangerous for the guild to bring them to charitable partners. Because of this, the group had quilts readily available when the disaster struck Kentucky.
“These quilts have been sitting there and we’ve added to them, so when the tornado struck in Kentucky, I thought to myself ‘We have quilts there, and what a great place to take them because they’re in need,” Braun said.
Both Braun and Whelan said using their skills to improve the lives of others is an essential part of Friends in Stitches’ mission, with Heart Strings Charity Group forming in June 2012, shortly after the guild’s establishment.
“We had lots of material that people had donated to us that we needed to find something to do with and I think … due to the fact that we all feel like we have a talent that we need to be sharing with other people, we felt like we also needed to give back to the community in any way we can,” Whelan explained of Heart Strings’ formation.
Friends in Stitches meet at 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of every month at the Monroe County Annex Building, 901 Illinois Avenue, Waterloo. Those interested in learning more can contact Braun at 618-830-9961 or Whelan at 618-444-7661.