There are somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 to 11 million quilters in the U.S.
My guess is that every single one of them would give me the very shirt off their back if I said I needed it. I bet they would give me that same shirt even if I said I didn't need it!
I know quilters have a generous spirit, because I experienced that generosity nearly 10 years ago (how is that possible?), shortly after the tragic shooting at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown Connecticut.
Quilters from all over the country helped me fill my Honda CRV with quilts for the families, the administrators, and first responders.
I knew that your quilts would be handled and delivered with care through a group of volunteers attached to my publisher, The Taunton Press, located in Newtown. I knew that or I simply wouldn't have asked.
And you trusted me to take care of your precious cargo. Because you know me, and you know I know how much care you put into your creations.
Over the past week, I have had questions and I have searched for answers.
Not in the usual 21st century places like on social media or in google search results, but by personally contacting trusted sources. Folks in the US, people who are connected to me through colleagues who have first-hand knowledge of what's happening oh-so-far-away in the countries that neighbor Ukraine, and in Ukraine itself.
I spoke with a Polish immigrant entrepreneur here in the US who has family and friends in Poland and knows volunteers helping refugees on the ground in Poland.
I spoke with volunteer coordinators at the Ukrainian National Home, right here in Syracuse, NY. Twice a week, they are collecting food, medical supplies, diapers, and feminine products and shipping them to Ukraine. They are updating a list of needed supplies in real time to help the refugees leaving Ukraine. Other Ukrainian businesses, churches and organizations are organizing similar shipments of essential supplies.
I spoke with a dynamic entrepreneur who left his comfortable home for Romania less than a week ago, as of this writing, to get answers as to how he can help in this crisis. More on Casey in a minute.
I spoke to my shipping partner to get an idea of how much it would cost to ship a quilt from here to Warsaw Poland. A 2 pound box (about the size of one quilt 44" square quilt) would cost no less than $50 at a hugely discounted rate.
Not one of them said, 'please send quilts.'
A Cautionary Tale
I know that what I'm saying will generate some controversy.
I have heard about one organization in the US that is requesting quilts for Ukraine. I can't recommend this organization, in part because I can't actually speak to anyone there. I've tried.
I received a forwarded message from quilt designer in Germany who has requested quilt blocks. She expected about 100 blocks. So far she has received 300, according to a facebook post on March 8. She is now requesting local assistance to assemble the quilts and supplies to make the blocks she has into quilts. I didn't see in her post that she was asking for more blocks, but I'm not her, and I haven't spoken with her.
3/10 Update: It does appear that blocks continue to be accepted as well as assistance toward finishing supplies, based on Facebook updates.
I'm reminded of the tragic fires in Australia in 2020. Someone somewhere reported that hand made mittens were helping Koalas to heal burnt paws. And with that, the sewing machines began whirring! The Tsunami of koala mittens choked the system, and who knows how much was spent in shipping costs that could have been diverted to medicines and direct donations to help these animals and others affected by the fire. Read more here.
Too much of a good thing, can be not-so-good.
So, What Can We Do?
Make quilts, but wait. It's only a matter of time before Ukrainian refugees are here in the United States. Probably to a community near you. Refugee resettlement organizations will be looking for all kinds of stuff to help them set up temporary homes. These organizations are really good at their jobs. They'll need quilts. And you can hand deliver quilts into their care just as all those quilts were delivered to me for the families in Newtown.
Ask Lots of Questions. If you feel you must make and send quilts now, ask first. Find out as much information as you can. Work with local Ukrainian organizations to find out their needs. Combine your efforts. To my knowledge, these organizations are shipping essentials like food, medical supplies, and baby needs now. That may change as needs change. Keep in mind it's absolute chaos, adding to the chaos with a flood of items that haven't been requested is not helpful, I promise!
Donate Money. Speak with your guild about organizing a fundraiser. Lists and lists of organizations are available from several trusted sources. And I'm about to give you a couple of suggestions, because I know it can all be very confusing.
May I Recommend?
World Central Kitchen. One of the colleagues mentioned above said that World Central Kitchen was doing amazing stuff for Ukrainians almost as soon as the chaos started. Not only are they at the border of Ukraine with hot food for refugees, but they're in the heart of it all, in the actual trenches and bombed out cities. They could use some financial support.
100 Vans of Hope. I mentioned my 'crazy ass friend' (that's how he signs his messages) Casey above. He's the one who left his comfortable home for Eastern Europe to get some answers. Like you and me, he just couldn't sit on the sidelines without doing something. He's currently in Constanta, Romania working with Hope Partners. They are filling vans and driving them to Odesa, Ukraine, a city on the Black Sea. Mr. Putin would very much like to have control over this city to effectively have control over the Black Sea, so the city is in serious hot water.
This is one of the vans, filled to the brim with supplies for Odesa. They have drivers, they have vans, and they need to fill the vans with supplies.
It takes about $3,000 worth of merchandise to fill a van with essential stuff.
It takes 7-10 hours driving at night without headlights to get from Romania to Odesa.
That's Casey on the left. I trust his judgement 100%. He's an amazing, high energy entrepreneur.
96% of donations to Hope Partners goes to supplies. This organization has only 4% operational costs. That's an amazing track record by any standard.
These are some of the families that this organization has helped since Casey has been there - five days at this writing.
The challenge is to fill 100 vans. The donations are pouring in from many of Casey's colleagues.
I wonder if the quilting community can fill a van? $3,000 isn't really that much split between 9 to 11 million quilters. . . . Jus' sayn! Here's the link.