Here We Go Again

Another natural disaster has brought on yet more quilt donation drives.  I’ve written about this before, and really haven’t changed my thinking since then.  I completely understand the desire to help by donating an object created with good intentions and imbued with positive symbolism – warmth, handmade, etc.  However, it’s one thing to donate quilts and other hand sewn items to local charities and relief efforts; but a different matter to send such donations hundreds and even thousands of miles away.  Where will the donated quilts be stored until they’re distributed?  Will they be a useful size? Will the recipients even have a place to keep them?

Rationally, it would be more cost effective to donate money to the people of Moore, Oklahoma.  Shipping costs alone probably run at least $5-10 a quilt. Wouldn’t it make more sense to donate that amount to a disaster assistance fund? Or, if you’re really intent on giving quilts, contact Oklahoma guilds and send them some funds or materials to make quilts. The Oklahoma City Modern Quilt Guild is developing a plan to create auction quilts.

Then, there’s the question of how much the recipients can use a quilt as opposed to other items. Next, there’s the aesthetic issue.  Some of the donated quilts are beautiful, but others look like they were made from old, cheap fabric. I cringe every time I hear a quilter say some fabric is good enough for a charity quilt.  If I lived in Moore I don’t think I’d value a quilt made with colors and fabric I disliked.  Same thing with those pillowcase dresses people keep sending to Haiti and Africa.  Do they make anything a boy could wear?

I’ll reiterate my suggestion – make quilts in aid of natural disaster victims and auction them off online or in your community.  Then, send the proceeds to whatever aid group you’d like to assist.  That way the givers get to make something tangible and the recipients get to choose the kind of assistance they need most. 

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Here We Go Again

  1. Jill

    I understand what you are saying and I agree. When the hurricane hit the east coast I kept thinking that, dollar for dollar, wouldn’t all the money spent on the quilts and shipping them buy more blankets at a big box store? If you took all the money spent on the quilts and the postage and just bought blankets, wouldn’t those blankets keep even more people warm? I think it’s great that there are blogs like yours for the expression of everyone’s opinions. I sent a quilt for the people of West, since it was in my heart to do that. (I do live in TX). But, I also think it’s good to donate money or water too.

  2. SueP

    Living on Long Island, and having seen the destruction of Super Storm Sandy I would like to say I agree with you but ….
    Our local chapter of Quilts for Kids distributed nearly 1000 quilts to the south shore of Long Island. The quilts were hand delivered and distributed at shelters. If you could see the faces of little kids that received a clean, bright, warm blanket that was “just for them” you may change your thinking a bit.
    Yes you need a way to distribute them. Yes, you need organization. But when you have nothing a quilt is more than warmth. It shows that someone cares, that you are loved. Maybe there should be a gift card tucked in every quilt, but certainly lets not forget that sometimes it is the little things that count – and are remembered forever.

    • As I’m sure it’s obvious by now, I’m not a warm and fuzzy person. I realize that my attempt to be rational about all this runs counter to the emotional reasons people donate their quilts. Yes, I’ve cheerfully made quilted blankets for a local children’s hospital and tote bags for a local women’s shelter; but it seems that within a few days of any disaster someone is setting up a national quilt drive. One of the points I tried to make in my post was to donate quilts and other handmade items locally. That way you can consult with the organization to find out what best suits the needs of their recipients. For example, my guild wanted to make quilts for the women’s shelter, but the staff discouraged this as their clients tend to move around a fair amount. When we proposed totes so the women had containers for their personal items, they were delighted.

  3. When disaster struck the local community of West, TX, many here wanted to help. For many, that meant opening their wallet. For others, it meant opening their homes to take in the displaced or donating goods to help board up windows or make repairs free of charge. Others have donated their time and efforts to help in the cleanup. For me, it meant taking all those quilt tops I’ve pieced over the years and getting help to quilt them. I, too, didn’t want them warehoused so I purposely sought out folks I knew would be able to get them where they needed to go, whether it was a local woman who worked at a nursing home or someone right in the West community. I didn’t intend to spearhead a drive for quilts, but that’s what happened. They’ve come from all over the US and several foreign countries…all from people with the best of intentions. One of the ladies to whom I took quilts told of an acquaintance who received a call from an Italian woman wanting to donate whatever the affected family needed. It’s lovely when people are moved to donate money, but for alot of people it goes beyond simply money…they want to DO something. Frankly, I feel like you’ve conveyed the opinion that giving doesn’t really matter unless it’s in currency. Yes, money is great and money gets things done. But I’d like to think when someone bunks down for the night under a quilt made with beautiful fabrics and good intentions, that they know someone out their loves them and is thinking and praying for them. None of the quilts we’ve donated have been ugly or ‘good enough’ for charity (who wants an ugly quilt even if it is free) and in times of crisis I highly doubt that anyone cares what colors are in the tops. I’ve debated since I saw your post, whether or not to say anything but to not say something would be a huge disservice to folks whose giving goes beyond dollars and cents. Thank you.

    • Please understand I’m not questioning the intentions of folks who donate quilts and I know you, personally, have put forth an incredible effort to get quilts to the citizens of West. What I am questioning is the reflexive response to deluge any area affected by a natural disaster with quilts, no matter how far away it is from the giver or how impractical it is to send quilts to an area lacking most of the basic services. I’m thinking of Japan here. Your distribution effort was targeted to those in need of quilts and you live in Texas so you worked around those difficulties by serving as the local coordinator. And I’m glad that none of the “ugly fabric” charity quilts I’ve seen were sent to you. I like to think that quilters would want to send their best work in such circumstances.

  4. Hooray for you for saying what needs to be repeated loud and clear! The last thing disaster aid coordinators need is a pile of things to store and figure out how to distribute. Money to buy the things individuals need? Perfect. Blood and money to the Red Cross work too. I’m going to share your post so that the message gets out, loud and clear!

  5. I agree with you 100%.

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