Women We Admire: Linda Arye of Quilts for Kids
How one woman's selfless act paved the way for volunteers all over the world to help comfort children in need.
Twenty-two years ago, Linda Arye was an interior designer shopping for a client when she came across industrial-sized trash bags full of discontinued fabric headed straight for the landfill. Appalled by the waste, she volunteered to take it home without having the slightest idea what she would do with it. Little did she know, that small, selfless act would change her life, as well as the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in a very big way.
A Humble Beginning
Moments after getting the go-ahead from the sales person, Linda began to load up her car. She returned day after day, hauling around what would add up to over 5,000 pounds of fabric from the store to her home. “I didn’t know what I was going to do with it all. I didn’t even know how to sew,” Linda admits, “but I had to do something.”
The solution came to her in the form of a memory of her daughter’s visit to the hospital at the young age of four. She was sick, scared, and unable to have her Bear Bear with her due to the fear of possible allergen contamination. This sparked an idea. Patchwork quilts–they would be beautiful and comforting, but also able to withstand the rigors of hospital laundering unlike the often prohibited stuffed animals and toys. As she was discussing the idea with a friend, she turned on her kitchen television to find Oprah holding up nothing less than a patchwork quilt herself. “It was like my very own ah-ha moment, as they say. It was so validating!” And so, out of her very own home, Quilts for Kids was born.
For years, Linda and her team could rely on the surplus of domestic cotton to provide for their endeavors. “I remember they would arrive on these huge,18-wheelers loaded to the top with clean, high-quality fabric. It was amazing.” Then in 2007, when the fabric mills moved off shore, everything changed. They had to make a decision–either close the organization or find a way to purchase the fabrics themselves. Thankfully, the fabric companies they had been working with agreed to continue to support them through reduced prices and donations. The good work they had begun would continue.
How You Can Help
Today, the mostly-volunteer run organization relies on donations as well as the profits from their fabric sales to create and distribute the quilts. For experienced quilters who want to help by doing the quilting themselves, they can do so using their own child-friendly stash or they can request a “quilt kit.” Each kit contains a pattern, pre-cut fabric pieces, backing material, and QFK label. If using your own fabric, Quilts for Kids requires that the quilts be made of new, high-quality cotton, and be machine pieced and quilted to withstand hospital laundering. They must be of lap or crib size and should be washed and checked for pins and loose threads before being returned for distribution.
For people who do not sew but still wish to help, Quilts for Kids offers many avenues for them to do so. To begin with, Quilts for Kids appreciates monetary donations of any amount as the process of buying fabric, creating quilts, and shipping them out increases every day. Additionally, you can check in with your local chapter to see if they are in need of any non-sewing help or to donate your own stash to aid them in their efforts. You can even give while you shop for yourself by selecting Quilts for Kids as your Amazon Smile or IGive organization. Lastly, you can spread the word. At any given time, there are more than 6 million hospitalized children nationwide—that’s a lot of quilts. The more people that know about Quilts for Kids, the faster those kids get the care and comfort they deserve.
The Legacy Continues
What started off as one woman’s efforts to keep some fabric samples out of the landfill has turned into an international success story. With local chapters in nearly every state, Canada, and the Bahamas, Quilts for Kids touches the lives of tens of thousands of children every year and their website is full of stories, pictures, and videos that attest to that fact.
When asked about her favorite part of running Quilts for Kids, Linda had this to say:
“I used to love delivering the quilts to the hospitals and watching the kids pick out their favorite. I would sit with their parents and hear all their stories. Unfortunately, we’re no longer able to do that….but every now and then we receive letters or emails from someone who received a quilt from us. Once, we even had a young girl return to us 20 years after being gifted a quilt to show us that she still had it! She told me she still sleeps with it and that’s it’s still a comfort to her today. Stories like hers are precisely why we ask for lots of quilting in our quilts. I find each story incredibly touching.”
Quilts for Kids is a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming fabrics into patchwork quilts to comfort children facing serious illness, trauma, abuse, and natural disasters. Click here to get an inside look at how the quilts are made and distributed. And don’t forget to visit their headquarters at 494 Lincoln Highway, Fairless Hills to shop for fabric at great discounted prices. Hours are Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., 215-295-5484.
All Photos Courtesy of QuiltsforKids.Org