Life is a quilt with pieces big and small
full of many colors and shapes.
You were some of the thread
that held a block together
as we worked toward
completion of this quilt we call life.
Every year, we hear the statistics of QuiltWeek: the number of quilts entered, the scores of visitors from multiple countries, and the economic impact on Paducah. Beyond those numerical soundbites, however, are thousands of stories—stories of quilters’ backgrounds, lives, and passions. And once a quilter comes to Paducah, their story and ours are forever intertwined.
Such is the case of Burness Adams from South Webster, Ohio. “I have gypsy in my feet,” says Burness. “I love to travel, and I love to quilt. I came to Paducah because I had never been to the quilt show. When I came, I decided to stay at Southland Ranch.”
In February 2011, Southland Baptist Temple acquired 50 acres in Ballard County. The property had an existing dining hall and lodge, which they renovated. The church then constructed two 80-bed dormitories, installed a pool, and built sports fields. The aim was to create a camp, retreat, and conference center for the region and beyond. In no time, Southland Ranch was booked for the summer with hundreds of children readied to attend summer camps.
As excited as they were to offer their new space to campers, Letitia Harris with Southland knew there were many children who could not afford to attend a summer camp. Letitia and the church decided to use what they already had in order to raise funds to sponsor kids to attend.
“We had openings in our schedule during the quilt show,” says Letitia, “so we offered the ranch facilities to visiting quilters. It was on my heart that this would be a way to raise funds for kids who couldn’t afford camp.” Right away, Southland Ranch received a call from Burness. She and three others from the Down by the River Quilt Guild in Ohio booked space at the ranch.
During their stay, the quilters learned about the camp and some of the children who would be able to attend because of their visit. They decided to then go beyond just staying at Southland. They wanted to use their talents to let the kids know that they are loved.
“I was sitting, talking to Letitia,” says Burness, “and I told her to consider having quilts and putting them on the beds. When a child comes to the camp, they get a quilt. It’s an act of love. Then they have something that belongs to them.”
Burness went back to Ohio and created quilting kits for the guild members and others to sew the quilt tops. With a fabric donation from West Virginia Quilts, the group had forty quilt tops ready to go. The group also opened the project up to quilters around the world. Burness created instructions, keeping the quilts to one pattern so that they will, in general, be uniform. Quilters can then send the finished quilt tops directly to Southland.
“And we still need a volunteer or volunteers to quilt these together,” says Letitia. With the tops, batting, and backing quilted together, the Southland Ranch logo will be embroidered on them. “Once they are quilted, they’ll be ready to give to the kids.”
Since that initial visit, the group of four quilters grew to thirty-seven, each of their stories now intertwined with Paducah and children who will be attending the camp. And now, quilters from around the world can interject themselves into this fabric of love.
“We all need something and to know that we’re loved by someone,” Burness says as tears form in her eyes. “It’s our expression of love. Those kids will know they are loved by somebody, somewhere in the world.”