After devastating floods, a rainbow of quilts brings hope

Published 5:50 pm Monday, December 5, 2022

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By Kim Kobersmith

Daily Yonder

When Evelyn Morgan asked people to donate quilts for Eastern Kentucky flood survivors, she never imagined the response would be so overwhelming. More than 1,000 have poured into her quilt shop in Grayson, Kentucky, from as far away as Colorado, Florida, and Pennsylvania. She anticipates the grand total will reach 1,500 quilts.

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Morgan felt compelled to do something for these friends and neighbors who lost so much in the historic July floods. She heard stories: of a woman who had to cling to the top of her refrigerator until someone rescued her, of an elderly couple who had over six feet of water in their home. And as the owner of Quilt Heaven Quilt Shop in Grayson, KY, and an avid quilter herself, she knows the power of a homemade gift.

“Making a quilt takes many hours of work and a significant monetary expense,” said Morgan in an interview. “Each tiny piece is sewn in. The love and stories sewn into them make homemade quilts very special.”

Area resident Paula Hensley and Evelyn’s husband, Frank Morgan, needed an 18-passenger van to distribute the hundreds of donated quilts.

Morgan shared the seed of her idea with another Carter County quilting friend, and the two shared the word on social media. One place she reached out was through the Mystery Harvest, a group of 12 quilt shops in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. The shop owners were about to meet so she asked them to consider donating some of the extra sample quilts they had laying around. They brought 25 donated quilts to that first meeting and adopted the project as their own.

The Mystery Harvest Shop Hop group, twelve quilt shops in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, collected many of the donations and brought them to Quilt Heaven in Grayson, Kentucky.

One shop owner later brought 90 quilts made during the pandemic. They were crafted for charity and this seemed like the right project to give them a home. Another shop owner offered a friendly challenge to see which shop could gather the most quilts. When she posted it on the group Facebook page, donations exploded.

Morgan was rendered speechless – a rare occurrence according to her – when a bus from New York pulled into Quilt Heaven and gifted 32 quilts. One sewer said she was offering the first quilt she had ever made. She was so proud of it, but had made so many since then and wanted it to go to someone who really needs it. “They had so much love in their hearts for people they didn’t know,” said Morgan.

The donations ran every size, from baby quilts to king-sized. Some had lush batik fabrics, others sturdy calico. Patterns ranged from a basic nine-patch to a complex curved double wedding ring. Some had beautiful custom quilting, others were lovingly and painstakingly hand-stitched. A rainbow of colors, the quilts offer a sign of hope after the flood.

When the first huge stack accumulated in Quilter’s Heaven, they were blessed before they were distributed. Stark Church, where Morgan attends, held a worship service and prayed over the quilts, that they would bring people comfort and the knowledge that God will bring them through to the other side.

Distribution was handled by friend Paula Hensley, a lifetime resident who has intimate knowledge of Letcher and Knox counties. Her family home was flooded for the first time in her life, deeply affecting her parents. She gave out the quilts through community centers, a homeless organization, a history museum, and by personal door-to-door delivery down roads other relief workers hadn’t traveled. “Hensley is a hero,” said Morgan.

Morgan has been rewarded for her work by hearing how touched the recipients were to know people were thinking of them. On a back road, Hensley came upon an older man who began to cry when she offered him a hand-made quilt. One quilt shop got a thank you note, written in a child’s hand with crayon, that melted the owner’s heart. 

So far, 923 gifts of warmth and love have been given away. Morgan has over 200 more to pass along to Hensley, with more on the way from other shops.

“I just feel led to do this,” said Morgan. “The floods brought so much misery, the least we could do is donate quilts.”