Manassas Journal Messenger | Group sews quilts for Katrina victims

RELATED Katrina’s aftermath

With their hearts heavy with sorrow for all the horrible losses caused by the devastation by Hurricane Katrina, a group of women gathered on Tuesday at the former Marsteller Middle School, now a mission of Manassas Baptist Church,  and made upwards of 100 quilts for the victims.

The quilts will be sent to Houston and with the help of the national organizations, Quilters Comfort America and the American Red Cross, they will be given to the victims who had been bussed there because they lost their homes or have no access to whatever is left of them.

Jannette Jackson of Manassas, a member of the Stone House Quilters Guild and owner of the Old Town Needlecrafts, is spearheading the local campaign.

“Like so many other people, I wanted to help. I just couldn’t look at television and not do something. I got word over the Internet that there was a great need for quilts for people staying on cots in the Astrodome or babies living in boxes on the hard floor. They all needed something comfortable, bright and soft.

So, along with Carole Piontkowsky of Manassas, we helped get the word out that we would be gathering for an old-fashioned ‘quilting bee’ to make as many quilts quickly as possible in one day,” Jackson said.

Upwards of 200 women volunteered their services at the church or made quilts at home and brought them in. Jackson was at the site at 9:30 a.m. and didn’t leave until 9:30 p.m..

“The church will sent volunteers to the Gulf states later to help residents rebuilt. I’m not good at carpentry but have been a quilter for 30 years. So this was the best way for me to help out,” Jackson said.

Some volunteers, like Piontkowsky, had spent the weekend making quilts which they brought to the church. In addition to the six quilts she made, Piontkowsky went to area business for donations.  Some, such as Hancock Fabrics, donated batting for the quilts, while Office Depot donated a stamp that the group will be stamping on the back of the quilts, saying “Quilted with Love, from Northern Virginia.” Other stores donated food for the volunteers, some of whom spent the entire day at the location.

Among them was a friend of Piontkowsky, Elaine Stuckey of Manassas, who made five quilt tops over the weekend and was at the church site, ironing and helping in any way she could.

“I wanted to help, but couldn’t go to the stadium in Houston. So sending quilts is my small way to help those in need. There are no more generous, giving and open-hearted people than us quilters,” Stuckey said.

Karey Patterson Bresenhan, with the Comfort America Project in Houston, said the organization has launched a two-part drive for Hurricane Katrina relief.

The first is the quilt drive for the victims who escaped the hurricane’s fury with only the clothes on their back and nothing more, so that they have something soft to sleep on instead of the hard concrete floors of the temporary shelters and something warm to cover up with against the chill of otherwise welcome air-conditioning.

Secondly, the group will match every donation made by quilters to the American Red Cross up to maximum of $10,000 on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

Donations may be mailed to Comfort America Project, c/o International Festival, 7660 Woodway, Suite 550, Houston, TX 77063 and note  the amount of the donation to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.

Jackson said twin size and baby size quilts were the most requested by Bresenhan.

‘Think about a mother lying on the floor cradling her baby – that’s the size quilt we need to provide. We don’t expect a confirmation that our quilts have been received or any kind of nice thank you. This was the time to do the right thing. People needed help … the kind of help we can give. I’d be thrilled to see one of our quilts on television being used by someone in the Astrodome.”

Jackson said clean sheets and blankets are also welcome.

“Bresenhan said these folks have lived with enough mud and dirt to last them the rest of their lives. Let’s give them a clean bed to rest in,” she said.

Donations may be dropped off at her shop at 9774 Center St., Manassas.

The quilts and other donated items will be boxed up by Jackson and volunteers, and sent to Houston by UPS on Friday.

“The need is now for the quilts,” she said, adding that she will pay for shipping cost, but donations will be accepted toward the costs. She said more quilts will probably be made at a later date.

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