Center Stage: ‘Tied by loving hands’

“This quilt was pieced together by refugees from the killing fields of Cambodia . . . to learn how to use a sewing machine. It was put together and tied by loving hands in the hope that it would bring a little warmth and comfort to you.”

This note, pinned to a quilt made by former refugees now living in Provo, Utah, for a Kosovar refugee, is indicative of the love and enthusiasm that have gone into the making of thousands of quilts since the Presiding Bishopric announced in July that those returning to their homes in Kosovo were facing freezing, bleak winter months ahead. (Please see Aug. 7 Church News.)

Under the coordination of the Relief Society, the Kosovar quilt project has resulted in more than 19,000 quilts (including some afghans and blankets) of various sizes being delivered to the Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City. From throughout the United States and Canada, the quilts have arrived — from wards, from families, from individuals. There are quilts for babies, quilts for adults, quilts with flower designs, a quilt with a life-size Mickey Mouse on its front, quilts with teddy bears and socks attached. There is even a hand-painted quilt.

And they've come attached with notes to the recipients, some even with pictures of the givers.

One day, Sept. 1, some 2,300 quilts were delivered to the Humanitarian Center — many made and carried in personally by the members of the Relief Society general presidency and general board. Relief Society Gen. Pres. Mary Ellen W. Smoot told members of the media gathered in the foyer of the center how pleased she was at the "tremendous response" of Latter-day Saints in making and sending the quilts.

"It's been an enlightening experience," she added. "It helps us to realize how much our sisters want to serve and want to help people around the world, so we are very happy to be a part of this project."

However, she continued, many more quilts — particularly adult-size — are needed. For this purpose, the original Sept. 1 deadline for delivering the quilts to the Humanitarian Center has been pushed back to Oct. 1. In fact, between sessions of general conference on Saturday, Oct. 2, representatives will be available at the Humanitarian Center to receive quilts from conference travelers.

The quilts are to be sent or taken to the Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center, 1665 Bennett Road, Salt Lake City, Utah 84104. On shipping forms that require a recipient's telephone number, the following number should be listed: (801) 240-6060. For more information, write the Humanitarian Center or visit the following humanitarian link within

In her remarks to the media Sept. 1, Sister Smoot had a message to those already sending quilts: "I'd just like to say thank you. Thank you for the people who will receive these quilts and when they feel the warmth of this quilt around them, I'm sure they'll feel that there's someone who loves them. Thank you for the time and the effort and money that have gone into the making of these quilts. We know that the blessings will come to you through your service."

Sister Smoot explained that the materials and time toward the quilt project have been completely donated by individual members. "We could have bought blankets for them," she related. "However, a quilt says something. If a person has a quilt that's been tied or stitched, they know someone really cares."

Sister Smoot related accounts of those who are reaching out through the Kosovo quilt project. "Today, we had 700 quilts come from the Tongan stake [in the Salt Lake Valley]. We have had quilts come from Hawaii. We had a group come from Grace, Idaho. There were 17 members of the family, from small children to adults and everyone presented his or her own quilt.

"We had a family come from Montana, with two daughters and a son. Those two little girls each completed a quilt which they presented. The little boy presented some soft balls they had made."

Many of the notes attached to the quilts tell their own tales. One poignant note read: "As a child in WWII, I was cold. I hope some little youngster will enjoy one of these quilts, my little grandchildren helped me tie."

Another note explained: "I pray that these would help some other grandma to warm her grandchildren this winter. We're blessed here in California to know that our families have enough bedding to stay warm all winter long."

It hasn't been uncommon for one ward to deliver dozens of quilts to the Humanitarian Center. For example, one ward in Bountiful, Utah, has donated nearly 100 quilts for Kosovo. And that's not the first project ward members have done for Kosovars. According to correspondence sent to the Church News, the ward Young Women made personal hygiene kits and denim drawstring schoolbags in April for Kosovo.

In addition, during the quilt project, ward members mentioned the need to a sister who had been less-active in Relief Society for years. That afternoon, the sister delivered three big boxes of fabric and two shoeboxes of cut-out quilt blocks to be used for the quilts.

Involvement in this project has reached from the smallest branches to the general offices of the Relief Society. Sister Smoot and members of her family — including grandsons — have made and donated some 60 quilts. And, she said in a Church News interview, this has given her precious time with her family. She has spent countless hours sitting with grandchildren making quilts — and talking.

"It's been a tremendous experience to gather the family together to visit while you serve someone else," Sister Smoot related. "To be together all serving someone else is a very special experience."