Quilting for a cause: Local shop organizes drive for children in southeastern Kentucky

A local sewing and quilting supply store is working to create quilts and collect other items for children living in poverty in southeastern Kentucky.

The project — “Quilts for Kids” — is being organized by Sew Crazy and will benefit 150 elementary school students in Pine Knot. According to owner Angie Behrman, the store is collecting quilts, pillows, pillow cases, embroidered bags and various personal items for the children. They’re also seeking gently-used shoes and clothes for all ages and sizes, including adults. The plan is for each kid to receive a quilt and pillow, with other items divided up equally between the group.

As of Aug. 24, the store had 39 finished quilts and 47 quilt tops.

“We’ve had a pretty good response with all of this, but there’s people that keep coming in, saying ‘Oh, I didn’t know anything about it,’” said Behrman.

Everything that’s collected will go to kids (and their families) from Pine Knot Elementary School. According to family resource coordinator Tasha Cox, the 150 students were chosen based on income and whether they participate in a backpack food program that provides about 80 students annually with meals, snacks and drinks to take home on the weekends.

She said that Pine Knot wasn’t as harshly impacted by recent floods as neighboring counties.

However, the area and its students still face challenges. When Behrman was planning out the project, she searched the internet for the most impoverished counties in the United States and came across McCreary County, where Pine Knot is located.

According to the United States Census Bureau’s profile on McCreary, 36% of the county’s residents live in poverty. For 2016-2020, the median household income was a little under $30,000. By comparison, only 9% of Bartholomew County residents live in poverty, and the county’s median household income for 2016-2020 was almost $67,000.

Behrman said that Cox told her about the hardships endured by local students. In some cases, children wear the same outfit to school each day because that’s all they’ve got.

“It just makes you want to cry, when you hear the stories,” said Behrman. “So we’re really tugging at this, really trying to pull out all the stops and do as much as we possibly can before that date to make sure that these kiddos have something.”

Sew Crazy will visit Pine Knot Elementary School on Dec. 7 and deliver the collected items to families at a spaghetti dinner.

Community members can help by creating quilts or quilt tops (60 by 72 inches, preferably), or by donating fabric, money or other items. Quilt tops should be dropped off by Oct. 31. Finished quilts can be brought in as late as Dec. 3.

As part of the project, Sew Crazy advertises a different donation request each week. This week, the request is for tissue boxes or pocket packs.

The store also holds sewing sessions for the project every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“People can come at any time,” said Behrman. “And they can stay all day, or they can come for just an hour. It’s just depending on what they want to do, but for the majority of the people, they come and they stay all day.”

The store is considering the addition of Thursday sessions as well, starting in September. There are also weekend sessions from time to time, where attendees bring food to share.

Additionally, proceeds from certain items at Sew Crazy go to the Quilts for Kids project.

Sew Crazy plans to hold a banquet in January thanking individuals who helped with this project, as well as those who helped with another charity initiative that involved sewing dresses for young girls in third world countries. These individuals will be able to enter drawings for various prizes, including two sewing machines and gift certificates.

Behrman added that they’re hoping to maybe continue Quilts for Kids next year and help children who weren’t in this year’s group.