In previous articles, we’ve discussed basic items that teen foster kids need, and why your gifts are the best thing in the world – but it all comes down to one problem. Most foster children have very few belongings. In fact, it’s not unusual for all of their things to fit in a single trash bag.
However, the right gift is all it takes to feel a little more at home and provide with a greater sense of stability and safety wherever they go. That’s why our team at Fostering Christmas was absolutely floored when our Quilting Heroes donated over 32 hand-sewn and longarm quilts for foster kids.
“Quilting Heroes” is only Fostering Christmas’s personal nickname. This unique, generous group of women wished to stay anonymous for this article. Thankfully, the grandmother who started it all was gracious in sharing their story.
It all started with a 76-year-old woman who is also an avid quilter and enjoys sharing her hobby. For years, she’s quilted with her two sisters-in-law, two daughters, and granddaughter. It was a way to spend time together, and they all absolutely “loved the process of quilting,” she said. It was a very affordable hobby too because they were “scrap quilters,” or quilters who utilized scrap fabrics to create their quilts.
The Beginnings Of A Passionate Quilting Effort
Coincidentally, there’s a Boise Quilt Show every year, where people sell fabrics, patterns, and quilting machines. So, she decided she was going to go there and buy a quilting machine. Although it was a “stretch” for her wallet, our quilting grandmother was able to take a little out of her Social Security to attain a cottage industry quilting machine for her family. This would allow her to assemble and longarm quilt all of their quilts.
She knew from the start that she wanted to donate quilts to a good cause – she just didn’t know which. “I’m very cautious,” she explained during our phone interview. “I didn’t want it to go to a place I thought wasn’t going to use them – [especially] with how much work goes into it, and how much time, fabrics, and batting, are dedicated to this project.”
It wasn’t just her own efforts that went into a single quilt, after all. Their process involves her family and people who donate scrap fabrics. The scraps are usually brought to her home or they pick them up. She washes and pre-shrinks all the fabric, and then creates the blocks from them. Afterward, she mails some of the blocks to her daughter and granddaughter to be sewn into a quilt top. When they're done, they mail back the completed patterns, and she quilts them together with her other daughter. She wanted their quilts to go to a cause that needed them most.
While cautious, finding the right organization didn’t seem like it’d be a huge task at first. Then, when she started researching local organizations, it was a “huge wake-up call.”
“In my little town, I narrowed it down to 9 places I could donate to. Every single one was no more than 4 miles from my home.” It was shocking to realize just how many needs there were in her local community. In particular, a woman’s shelter called the Nampa Family Justice Center touched her heart deeply. “They process women and children who have been physically and/or sexually abused. I got a tour, and, by the time I left, I was in tears.” From attorneys, medical staff, counselors, advocates, and more, the organization provides everything these women and children need, even when facing their abuser again in court.
As it turned out, the center not only had these resources but plenty of quilt donations! “They had quilts stacked to the ceiling,” she was told. To this day, she still provides help to the shelter by other means – but upon hearing this news, she started looking for a new home for their family quilts.
Why Our Hero Chose Fostering Christmas
As it turns out, our hero’s daughter attends the same church as our VP, Karli McNamee! “My daughter introduced me to Karli,” she said. “I found out that she works with social workers, and they can handle [hundreds of kids in only a couple of months]. That’s huge.” She was especially touched by older foster kids who are still waiting for their next home, and potentially never finding it. “These kids are placed [in shelters] and Airbnbs until they’re aged out. They feel unloved and unadoptable. These are kids from 14 to 18. That’s just so sad.”
It didn’t take long for her to decide on Fostering Christmas as her new cause for these gorgeous, high-quality quilts. “We do everything, from baby quilts to older kids’ quilts. There was a young girl I’d never met that was 18. She aged out of the foster system, but she was pregnant at 18 and trying to keep the baby to raise it. We made a quilt for her too.” Our team was very happy to help her to make this happen, and according to the social worker, it had a stunning impact.
Their goal is to make as many quilts as possible for children in the Idaho foster care system. “This is how I want to spend most of my life,” she said proudly. “If you can’t find joy in your day, you need to be the joy for someone else.” Sometimes, her husband teases her when they hear international disaster stories. She laughed, “He’ll say, ‘Don’t tell me you want to make them all quilts,’ and I’ll say, ‘Yes!! I want to make them all quilts!’”
Although she’d love to provide quilts on a more global scale, she feels a deep calling to help those in her local area that need help most. “Children who don’t feel loved just get me. I’m a mom and grandma, and I can’t imagine what these kids go through.” So, while their aspirations are already very high and she can sometimes push herself too hard, there’s nothing negative about the experience that she’d change or take away. She says that the very last thing she wants to do in this life is quilting, with a needle in her hand and a quilt on her lap. “I know what I’m supposed to be doing,” she stated contently. That’s how we know that every single one of these quilts are made with love to sustain anyone for a lifetime.
P.S. Our Quilting Heroes are always in need of more fabric scraps to create their beautiful designs. If you have some fabric you’d like to donate, feel free to ship them to or drop them off at our office: 391 N Ancestor Pl, Suite 100, Boise, ID 83704.