We love our creative community! As most of us know, the Central Coast seems to be a breeding ground for innovative people of all types to create a variety of local businesses which make living here even more wonderful than it already is. We have amazing local restaurants, wineries, breweries, distilleries, jewelers, painters, sculptures, bakers, screenprinters, farmers, graphic designers, landscapers, photographers, film makers, musicians...this list could really go on and on for pages. All this to say, if you can dream it and create it, the Central Coast makes for a very receptive local audience for all types of artistic endeavors.
And as a Central Coast nonprofit, we love it when our local creative types want to apply their gifts and talents to our mission--and we’ve had some amazing individuals and businesses bless our children and families in truly unique and powerful ways. Recently, two wonderful quilters, Lori and Anne, approached us about how they could use their love of quilting to enhance the lives of a foster child or youth. The outcome of their involvement has been more than any of us could ever have predicted; their quilts communicate a level of tenderness and compassion to those in our care that only Lori and Anne’s thoughtful work could. Below is our recent interview with Lori and Anne. Please read it and learn more about their incredible hearts and hands to give.
FCNI: How did you get started making quilts for kids in our foster care and adoption programs?
Anne: “I have always loved quilts, and almost four years ago I decided that I wanted to learn how to make them. I took a beginning and an intermediate class in Morro Bay, and I was hooked. I have been quilting ever since, and have made many quilts for friends and family. After making about forty quilts, I wanted to do something to give back to our community. I retired ten years ago from Special Education where I was a liason from the SLO County SELPA [Special Education Local Plan Area] to agencies in the county. At that point, I met Jim Roberts, and I had also met his wife Meg from her business Studio Stitch. And one of their sons was a good friend of my daughter from when they were in high school together in Atascadero years ago. Connecting with the mission of the Family Care Network was easy for me. I really enjoy the quilting process and being able to make something that I hope somebody loves. As I am making the quilts, I am thinking about each child as I am sewing and making, instilling love into each quilt I make.”
Lori: “I’ve been quilting for most of my life. I’ve been reaching out and started a long arm business a long time ago when I retired, to teach people how to quilt and that’s how I met Anne. I have always been a philanthropist in the area of making and giving and doing things. I’ve been personally involved with Family Care Network for about twenty years now. My friend Tanya introduced us to Family Care Network, and my husband and I think it is a wonderful organization--we love what they do. About eight or nine years ago my husband, Craig, joined the Board of Directors for FCNI, and became much more active and involved. Anne approached me about doing quilts for kids at FCNI as a team, and I said I would be honored to help her finish quilts and put on the batting and take care of them for kids who are in the adoption or foster care process. I also have a close relationship with Jim and Meg Roberts, and many other people who work at FCNI. I feel that if I can just help change one kid’s life by giving them something to hang onto and something that’s an heirloom, we’ll have accomplished what we hope. Fabric talks, the pictures talk, the love and the joy that goes into them speaks to the person who receives it, and I’d love to know that the kids are as happy to receive these quilts as we are to make them.
“I’m a pretty spiritual person, and while making each of these quilts, I’ve prayed for those children that will receive them. I pray that they have joy in their life, and that their time with Family Care Network makes a difference in their lives. I hope that this beautiful piece of art that Anne has designed and created can become a positive part of their journey and story. Those kids are all being prayed for as we make these quilts for them. I see a lot of kids and families transition from being clients to becoming staff at FCNI because they also want to change others’ lives, and that speaks so clearly as to the quality and efficacy of the support that FCNI provided for them, and I’m happy to be a part of the big picture of FCNI’s mission in our community.”
FCNI: What are you hoping that these quilts will impart to the kids they are made for?
Anne: “I want these kids to know that the love that Lori and I have for them is real, and we want them to have something special that is just for them, that was made with each of them individually in mind. I hope that it will wrap them in some warmth, that it will give them something physical to remind them that they are loved. I am very interested in and have a very strong belief in resilience. If a child can feel the love and support that helps them to be more resilient in whatever challenges and trauma they are facing, I hope that our love in the form of quilts make a difference to them.”
Lori: “I think that a part of it for both of us is that so many people help out in many places around the world, but this is a tangible way that we can be silent givers in a way that affects those in our own backyard, it stays right in our own community; it helps the families in need right here. We know that the programs at FCNI are making a huge difference and are having a positive effect on the community. We know that a child right here in our community is receiving the benefit of our time and love. We know they’re receiving support, mentoring, therapy, and good counsel through FCNI, and we have the privilege to be a small part of their journey. A quilt is something safe for these kids, they can wrap themselves up in it and feel the comfort and the love.
My husband Craig spent many years in law enforcement, and he always kept stuffed animals and blankets in his car. When he had to take a kid to Child Protective Services to possibly be placed in foster care, he always made sure that they had a blanket and a stuffed toy and felt loved. Seeing these small things bring comfort and give these kids something of their own to hold onto was meaningful to me. I know that when teens are placed in the Transitional Aged Youth programs, they get a Care Kit full of items to start their new home. Most of those kids start their home with nothing, and maybe blankets like ours can be one of those beautiful things that they can call their own. I’m at a point in my life where this project feels like a different way of giving back, it’s sharing love and giving something that kids can keep for a lifetime.”
FCNI: Can you share more about the process of how you make your quilts?
Anne: “When I receive the ages and genders of the children from FCNI, I try to find fabric and patterns that a child that age will appreciate. Choosing the fabric is great fun, and choosing the pattern is also individualized. I don’t know these kids directly, but I do try to connect with them in trying to decide what style to choose for their quilts. I’m a very practical and pragmatic person, but in making quilts I’m discovering my creativity. The quilt tops probably take 30-60 hours each, because of the planning and details they require.”
Lori: “I think the labor of love is the time spent in quilt preparation. We measure and cut fabrics, get things laid out and then start the sewing process. We sew and press--there are so many steps. The labor of love continues to grow piece by piece until you get the final product, put a border on it, and pick the backing that’s going to go on it. When it arrives to me, I get so excited to pick the thread colors and backing and pattern design for the actual quilting. I’m like a little kid when it comes to doing the quilts. There is a lot of creativity that happens, and we start to develop our own styles when quilting and tying the details together. I pick the threads and patterns, and have to load and frame the patterns, then fitting the quilt into my machine takes a lot of time. Start to finish, the back of the quilt usually takes around eight hours.”
FCNI: If you could say anything directly to the children you’ve made quilts for, what would you say?
Anne: “I hope you love it, and I hope you feel the love that went into it.”
Lori: “I would want them to know that they are loved, that they are blessed, that they are a child of God, and that I hope they feel that they are wrapped up in God’s love through this blanket. Every child is incredible, and every child is individual, and they deserve all the love that us humans on earth have to offer.”
We cannot thank Lori and Anne enough for the tremendous amount of time, love, care, thought and energy that they invest in creating these quilts for our kids. Each one is a piece of art, and each one is providing a one-of-a-kind reminder to our youth that they are loved and that they matter a great deal to our community. This is a priceless message, and we are so grateful to Lori and Anne’s fabrics for communicating it so powerfully to those who need to hear it the most.
If you’d like to get more involved with FCNI in unique ways, please contact our Resources Engagement Team at 805-781-3535 or by visiting FCNI.org.