Making a World of Difference One Quilt at a Time: Inspiring Stories about Quilters and How They Have Touched Lives

Making a World of Difference One Quilt at a Time: Inspiring Stories about Quilters and How They Have Touched Lives

by Ruth McHaney Danner


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Making a World of Difference One Quilt at a Time: Inspiring Stories about Quilters and How They Have Touched Lives by Ruth McHaney Danner

Quilts exemplify precious things: comfort through the warmth they provide; community, since they are often created by groups; and love, given the time and effort they require. With this in mind, legions of kindhearted quilters all over the world choose to donate their labors of love to people in need. Ruth McHaney Danner has gathered fifty-four heartwarming stories of quilters who make their compassion tangible one stitch, square, and quilt at a time. Each story introduces a quilter or group of quilters, ranging from a blind woman in Texas to preschoolers in Australia. Their gifts have the power to make recipients feel cherished and supported, even though they may never meet face-to-face. These wonderfully inspiring stories show that every quilter who has ever wondered, “But what can I do?” can do something that will help someone.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608683444
Publisher: New World Library
Publication date: 10/27/2015
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 1,234,848
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Ruth McHaney Danner, the author of What I Learned from God While Quilting, has written extensively for various publications. She has made dozens of quilts for charitable organizations and for individuals in need, and many of her projects have won awards. Her sewing room in Spokane, Washington, overflows with stacks of fabric, bags of scraps, and an endless supply of UFOs (unfinished objects).

Read an Excerpt

Making a World of Difference One Quilt at a Time

Inspiring Stories About Quilters and How They Have Touched Lives

By Ruth McHaney Danner

New World Library

Copyright © 2015 Ruth McHaney Danner
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60868-345-1


Comforting the Children

The Linus Touch

Want to start a community quilting group? Try old-school publicity.

That's what Virginia Biela and her friends did in White Settlement, Texas. Instead of today's electronic social media, these women used supermarket bulletin boards and wrote a brief article for the local newspaper. With a whoosh, Virginia's group took off, thanks to an initial donation of "a whole room full of material," she recalls. "We brought five carloads of fabric from one donor's house."

The old-fashioned notices also garnered several volunteers. "We got people who couldn't sew, but we could still use them. There's a job for anybody." Indeed, she can find a place for every willing hand — sorting fabric, cutting, ironing, or layering quilt tops with batting and backing.

And what's the goal of all this volunteering? Project Linus.

Named after Charles Schultz's Peanuts comic-strip character who always carried his security blanket, Project Linus began in 1995. Since then, this nonprofit organization has established chapters in all fifty states in order to provide blankets or quilts to children in need. Project Linus volunteers like Virginia donate an astounding 350 bedcovers to children every month.

The personal touch of these simple quilts and blankets can make a huge impact on their recipients. Carol Babbitt, president of the national Project Linus organization, says on the group's website, "The comfort brought to a child by a Project Linus security blanket should not be underestimated. Thanks to our many blanketeers and our chapter coordinators, millions of children and their families have been given comfort and security at a time when they need it most. In addition, blanketeers are given an opportunity to use their talents and abilities in a most rewarding way."

Virginia Biela has seen that reward within her group. She recalls, for example, two young quilters in separate meetings with Project Linus workers. "We had a ten-year-old. Her mother brought her in, and she sat in a corner, working for three hours. She made a quilt all by herself!" With a smile, she says the girl gained confidence and a new set of skills. Likewise, Virginia remembers another girl who came to meetings with her grandmother. This young teen took scraps home, designed her own quilt top, and then sewed it together herself. Her eagerness and enthusiasm encouraged her fellow Project Linus workers.

Like these girls, Virginia started quilting as a child. "I grew up with Mother, aunts, neighbors — all did quilts out of scraps, like overalls and shirts. I slept under a quilting frame, hooked to the ceiling." She learned sewing from her mother at the treadle machine, and when Virginia reached high school, she gravitated toward home economics and sewing classes.

While engaged to be married, she watched her mother make a basket quilt, which became her wedding gift in 1950. But the young bride herself didn't find much time for quilting. "After I got married," she says, "I had three children. My husband rented a sewing machine for me to make maternity clothes." He eventually bought that Singer for her, and she still has it, more than sixty years later.

After several decades, Virginia's interest in quilting got new life when her widowed mother moved in. "She came, along with her quilt patterns, quilt scraps, quilt frames. This kept her busy. We set the frames up for her. I started making quilt tops, and we quilted together."

Now she's constantly involved in this hobby. "I make queen-size quilts for all family members on their fiftieth wedding anniversary," she says. "I also make a quilt for every grandchild." In 2006 she heard about Project Linus, though she'd volunteered as a blanketeer for its predecessor, ABC Quilts. She liked the Linus philosophy and soon organized a group at Bethany Christian Church in White Settlement, serving thereafter as project coordinator. She also participates in another Linus group at a church in nearby Benbrook, where she holds the office of treasurer. Her Linus groups donate quilts to numerous charities in Tarrant County: AIDS Outreach, Catholic Charities for Abused and Neglected Children, Child Protective Services, and The Warm Place, which offers grief counseling for children.

One of Virginia's favorite aspects of Linus involves meeting the recipients. In many situations, because of confidentiality issues, that's not possible. However, she notes one prominent exception. "Twice a year," she says, "Cook Children's Hospital hosts us. They treat us to valet parking and a free lunch." Although those perks garner smiles, Virginia admits the real joy comes from seeing the youngsters. "The children get to come down out of their hospital rooms with their IV poles. They get to pick out their own quilts." Their enthusiastic giggles thrill the quilters' hearts, she says. On some occasions, the hospital even allows Linus volunteers to visit the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and observe firsthand how their baby quilts are used.

A person who doesn't quilt might not get it: how a simple bedcover — 36 inches square or larger, tied with crochet thread — serves as a bridge between generations and brings joy to maker and recipient. Just ask Virginia and members of her Linus groups, whose old-school publicity gets results. Or ask the children who get the quilts. They'll all give the same answer: it's the personal touch.

Binding Stitch

If you live in the Dallas–Fort Worth area, you can learn more about volunteer opportunities at Cook Children's Hospital; see Project Linus volunteers include people who quilt, crochet, and knit. Get involved and use your skills to help children! Look for a chapter in your area at Besides official Linus chapters, scores of quilting guilds around the country donate to Project Linus. Among them is Union County Night Owls Quilt Guild in southern Arkansas. This guild (with fewer than fifty members) has made numerous bedcovers for charities, including over three thousand quilts for Linus since 2007, according to member Trisha Nash.

Photo on 4 courtesy of Virginia Biela.

A Special Nursery

Dad's patience is wearing thin. His wife's in the hospital after surgery, and he's caring for twin sons less than a year old. Changing diapers, warming formula, getting up at all hours, squeezing in hospital visits — all have taken a toll on his mental and emotional well-being. When will he have time to get a haircut and follow up on those job applications he's been submitting?

Across town, a single mom, depressed and prone to drug abuse and self-mutilation, glances at her three-year-old and crawls back into bed. Maybe the child will be all right for a couple of hours while she sleeps.

In yet another home, a mom and dad are fighting again. They say they love each other but can't seem to agree on anything. Even simple chores, like taking out the trash and washing the dishes, trigger another episode. Meanwhile, their preschool daughter listens from the next room and makes herself small behind the family's tattered sofa.

What's a child to do? What's a parent to do? Where can they find help before the problems get worse? Call the crisis nursery.

When we think of the word "nursery," an image of babies in cribs or toddlers in swing sets might come to mind. Or we think of a day care with laughing preschoolers digging in the sandbox. But there's another kind of nursery. Sure, it has all of those components — and more. Even the name gives a clue: crisis nursery.

This special place is a facility that provides short-term care to newborns through six-year-olds, protecting them from situations that could lead to incidences of abuse or neglect.

What kinds of parents put children in a crisis nursery? Parents who love their little ones enough to ask for help.

The Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery in Spokane, Washington, is a great example. Since its beginnings in 1987, it has welcomed an average of four thousand children a year, providing residential care for preschoolers for up to seventy-two hours. It also offers support for parents: crisis counseling, referrals to social-service agencies, parenting classes, and family-support groups.

Moreover, it does all this with a nonjudgmental attitude, realizing that some adults face overwhelming odds in their lives. They may not have the emotional reserves or the physical resources to cope with their problems. In fact, personal issues, such as low self-esteem and social isolation, can escalate to crisis levels for these folks. Substance abuse, homelessness, and even inappropriate expectations can also balloon out of control if not handled properly. But with the right kind of support, parents in these circumstances often find the strength to build positive lives for themselves and their children.

Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery accomplishes this goal through private donations. A whopping 100 percent of the facility's budget comes from contributions from individuals, corporations, service organizations, foundations, trusts, and fund-raising events. In addition, a multitude of volunteers serve as helpers in child care, yard care, janitorial service, and building maintenance.

But money and volunteer hours aren't the only donations welcomed at Vanessa Behan. The nursery also appreciates gifts from individuals and merchants in the community: diapers, baby wipes, toilet paper, trash bags, kitchen supplies, nonperishable foods, baby food, and formula. And quilts.

Celia Benzel coordinates Charity Central, an arm of the Washington State Quilters (WSQ). She works with dozens of WSQ members who piece and quilt for a variety of charities, and one of their favorites is the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery. Every three months, Celia carries an armload of quilts to the center. Dora the Explorer, Spiderman, ballerinas, and fire trucks cavort in patterns of pinwheels, rail fences, and simple squares on the 150 quilts she brings annually. She believes that each quilt in her arms has been "made for somebody who's going to love it and appreciate it and use it."

In her imagination, she can even picture the kids' reaction. "I know the faces of the children when they see these quilts. It's just going to bring them a moment of pure joy."

Vanessa Behan's executive director, Amy Knapton, agrees. In an interview with a local television station, she says, "Kids can kind of shut out the world by hiding in a blanket, if they want to. The quilt is something that hopefully will remind them of their experience here, that they found warmth and love and nurturing here."

A couple of those quilts will go home with the twins, after their harried father has twenty-four hours to rest and regroup. Another quilt will comfort the three-year-old whose mother will consider getting help for her personal problems. Yet another will be cuddled by a preschooler who may no longer have reason to fear her parents' angry outbursts.

When adults recognize they need help, they'll find it at the crisis nursery. Their children, meanwhile, find shelter, a comfortable bed, and a colorful quilt to make their lives a little brighter.

Binding Stitch

There's probably a facility in your area like Vanessa Behan. Just type "crisis nursery" and your state name into your search engine, and you'll discover many ways to help. If you live in eastern Washington, check out the Behan nursery at

Getting a Head Start

You won't find the word "quilter" among the list of volunteers needed on Head Start's webpage. But you will find other, seemingly more practical categories, such as bathroom helper, field-trip aide, and kitchen assistant.

No matter. The Mississippi Valley Quilters Guild (MVQG) has found a way to serve Head Start by making and donating a special gift to each student.

The MVQG holds meetings in Moline, Illinois, but its membership spans the Quad Cities, which, in addition to Moline itself, include Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa, and Rock Island and East Moline, Illinois. The combined population of these five cities — when the fifth was added the "Quad" label remained — is almost four hundred thousand, on both sides of the Mississippi River. That means the guild has found countless ways to help a large community of suffering and needy people.

The guild makes quillos for one of its charity projects; they're a combination quilt and pillow. A quick seamstress can make a couple of them in a few hours, and they're donated to Hope Lodge, a temporary residence for patients receiving cancer treatments through the University of Iowa hospital system.

Another group within MVQG makes quilts for Habitat for Humanity in the Quad Cities. According to president Nancy Jacobsen, "This is a loose organization in our guild. We distribute at least one quilt to each family when they take over ownership of their new home." Sometimes, she says, families receive more than one quilt, depending on the needs of their members. In one year recently, the guild gave quilts to five Habitat families in Illinois and Iowa.

Smaller, lesser-known charities get attention from MVQG as well: a long-term care center and an adult day care both get lap robes; the Salvation Army Family Services and the Women's Choice Center get quilts for residents' beds; a shelter for abused women and children gets quilts and other bedding. The guild has designated each February as Charity Sewing Month. During its two meetings that month, members construct quilt tops for many of these agencies.

And then there's Head Start. Across the United States, Head Start operates as a school-readiness and family-support program. It provides an array of comprehensive services at no cost to low-income families of preschoolers. The program focuses on children with health-related problems and disabilities, working to connect them to assistance and medical services. It also tries to promote each child's self-concept and reinforce good patterns of behavior. In every community — including Moline and East Moline — it helps hundreds of children and their parents. Head Start receives funds from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture, but it still solicits donations and volunteer assistance on the local level.

So MVQG members have slipped in under the radar to serve the children of Head Start in an unexpected way: by making a doll quilt for each boy and girl. Every December since 1995, the guild distributes a thousand of these little quilts. Nancy says most of them are 24-inch squares, with bright colors and child-friendly prints acceptable to youngsters from various ethnic backgrounds. She herself stitches up scores of doll quilts each year, using fabrics especially for children. "I make sort of an 'I Spy' quilt that parents can use to interact with their child," she says.

Because the quilts are given to all Head Start preschoolers, the guild asks quilters to include little-boy themes on half of their quilts. "After all," Nancy notes, "many of the boys will need nurturing skills as adults," and quilts can help encourage that.

Guild members donate fabric for these quilts, and the guild buys batting. A committee within MVQG meets monthly to make forty to fifty quilt tops and then create ready-to-quilt kits. Each kit includes top, batting, and backing, placed in a recycled plastic bag that once held a newspaper. At the guild's next general meeting, members pick up one or more bagged kits to take home and complete.

When Head Start preschoolers receive the finished doll quilts, they realize strangers did something special for them. They may face struggles in life, but they have a doll quilt to remind them of caring people.

And those caring people in the Mississippi Valley Quilt Guild will continue making doll quilts, quillos, lap robes, and many more quilts. Why? The population of Quad Cities — including families and individuals struggling with a variety of issues — demands it. Nancy Jacobsen explains by quoting one of the group's avid volunteers: "The need for charity exists because people are suffering."

Binding Stitch

The Mississippi Valley Quilt Guild has photos and other information at You might also want to check out the Quad Cities Head Start program ( and then see what's available in your own community.

Photo on page 12 courtesy of Nancy Jacobsen.

Quilts for Kids

Linda Arye believes the old saying "One person's trash is another's treasure."

Back in 2000, she recalls, she visited the Philadelphia Design Center and "noticed numerous industrial-size trash bags filled with discontinued designer fabric that were to be thrown away." She asked if she could have that fabric, though she had no idea at the time what she might do with it. She simply wanted to save it from a landfill.


Excerpted from Making a World of Difference One Quilt at a Time by Ruth McHaney Danner. Copyright © 2015 Ruth McHaney Danner. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


1. Comforting the Children,
2. Honor for the Military,
3. Far-Flung Quilting,
4. Spreading the Comfort, Keeping the Faith,
5. Comfort at Beginning and End,
6. Scholarly Workers,
7. Bringing Comfort When Disaster Strikes,
8. Community Stitching,
9. Quilting Pros,
10. Even Animals Need Quilts,
About the Author,

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