Local groups sew quilts for Butte Fire victims | TheUnion.com

Local groups sew quilts for Butte Fire victims

Quilters of Nevada County make quilts to contribute to the We Care project at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Grass Valley Tuesday.
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

Members of the Pine Tree Quilt Guild are powering up their sewing machines to bring some comfort to the victims of the Butte Fire.

They’ve partnered with members of Grass Valley’s Seventh-Day Adventist Church to make quilts for students from the Calaveras Unified School District whose families lost homes in the blaze.

The fire ignited Sept. 9 and burned over 70,000 acres and destroyed 475 homes in Calaveras and Amador counties before being contained.

“You can’t save the world, but you can help a few people,” said Kathy Biggi, a member of the guild.

The volunteers are aiming to make more than 50 quilts for elementary, middle and high school students over the next couple of weeks — and they’re encouraging the community to help.

The group is holding a quilting workshop from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 12. Both novice and experienced quilters are welcome to help sew or to organize and label quilts, or to pick up a quilting kit, complete with fabric and instructions, to work on at home.

Community members can also drop off monetary donations for the project, dubbed “We Care,” at the church from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Oct. 12 and 15.

In addition, donations can be mailed to The Pine Tree Quilt Guild at P.O. Box 3133, Grass Valley, CA 95945; checks should be made out to Pine Tree Quilt Guild, with a notation that the money is for project “We Care” in the memo line.

Completed quilts can be dropped off from 10 a.m. to noon on Oct. 20 at Seventh-Day Adventist Church, or on other days at Ben Franklin Crafts at 598 Sutton Way in Grass Valley.

Biggi said she was inspired to start the “We Care” project because of the similarities between Calaveras and Nevada counties, and the fire danger that most residents in the Sierra foothills face each summer.

“That could have easily been us,” Biggi said of the Butte fire victims.

The Pine Tree Quilt Guild has a history of community service, Biggi said; the guild has donated about 500 quilts per year for the past five years to a variety of causes, including the homeless, returning soldiers and foster children.

Biggi said members of the guild chose to take on the “We Care” project in addition to their year-round service projects; this project has been entirely funded by individual donations.

She and fellow guild member Lorna Straka got together with Betty King, a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, and began spreading the word about the quilting project.

Other local groups, including the quilting club from Grass Valley’s Peace Lutheran Church, have joined their efforts.

On Tuesday, the second of the group’s four quilting workshops, more than a dozen women worked at different stations around the room at the church; some of the volunteers sat behind sewing machines, while others measured and cut fabric or pinned fabric to batting.

The construction of the quilts is a true group effort, said Straka. She pointed to a nearby solar system-themed quilt.

She had donated that fabric to the project, while Biggi provided some of the solid-colored fabric in the quilt.

A volunteer took the fabric home to construct the front of the quilt; now that it was back at the church, Straka was planning to attach fabric around the edges before handing the quilt off to other volunteers to finish the binding and sew in a label.

“Everybody does a little bit of something,” Straka said. “What do they say? It takes a village.”

Straka noted her husband John Straka served as chief of the Grass Valley Fire Department in the 1980s; his time in the department helped her understand the kind of devastation fire causes.

Quilts provide “a homey, comfortable, warm feeling,” said Gloria Beach, 73, a member of the church. “These people who are left destitute really need something to make them feel good again.”

Biggi said the group is working with the Calaveras Unified School District to deliver the quilts in the second week of November. Though the volunteers have focused their efforts on making quilts for the students, any additional quilts will be donated to other fire victims.

Pine Tree Quilt Guild member Kia Hatch, 71, said she hopes the handmade quilts will bring more than warmth to those who lost their homes or possessions in the fire.

“It will help them understand that there are people who don’t know about them, but who really care about them,” Hatch said.

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email elavin@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

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