Living in a dry climate, it can be hard to fathom entire homes, roads, bridges, and structures being swept away by torrential floods. But in late July, that was the reality across 13 counties in eastern Kentucky. After a week of intense storms turned quiet streams into raging rivers, hundreds of families were displaced into travel trailers, campers, state parks, tents, and emergency shelters seeking food, warmth, and safety.
Although this catastrophe has disappeared from the headlines, the struggle very much continues. Many remain houseless while efforts to recover, rebuild, and restore normalcy are underway. But Kentuckians are not forgotten! In every corner of our country, virtual strangers have banded together to lend their support. From government agencies to the private sector to community organizations, critical resources, and services are being provided.
When news broke of this disastrous event in Kentucky, members of the Ranch Piecemakers saw an opportunity to contribute to the cause. They wanted to make quilts for those in need and hoped to target a community where their small contribution could make the biggest impact. Member Alice Ann Lenzini searched the internet and was led to the city of Neon, Ky., a place with fewer than 800 residents in an area of 1.6 square miles of Letcher County. She had a conversation with a city council member who was nearly brought to tears when Alice Ann told her what the Piecemakers were planning to do.
The citizens of Neon are working tirelessly to recover. They lost their only pharmacy, medical office, and library. Rising waters pushed a church off its foundation and filled it with mud; the local doctor’s medical practice was decimated by 9-feet high waters that broke through a four-foot floodgate destroying all her medical equipment, medications, records, and artwork. Schools were flooded, and virtually every house and business was damaged.
On a mission, Piecemakers members began in September by gathering with fabrics in hand to cut pieces for a “crazy quilt” pattern. Modern crazy quilts are fun, colorful quilts known for their irregular shapes; bold, “scrappy” color combinations; and relative speed of assembly. Both beautiful and practical, they are at once whimsical and warm.
Once the pieces were cut, members set off assembling their quilt tops. Some cut extra pieces and made more than one quilt while others helped with long-arming. Finally, at 36 all told, the finished quilts were folded, wrapped in bows, and placed in bags ready to be mailed. Destination: Neon, Kentucky!
They shipped on Dec. 6, and the quilts in those boxes contained all the love and best wishes they could hold for the people of Neon and Kentucky at large who continue to need support and comfort. Recovery is a whole community effort, and the Piecemakers find joy and purpose in striving to do their part.