Sad to say until then, I don't ever recall hearing about Oso, after all it is such a tiny little place where neighbors help neighbors, everyone knows everyone and they help each other out. If you blinked, you would miss it driving through the beautiful country side.
My first visit up there, I met three incredible women...Joy, Irma and Pastor Sandy who are just the most amazingly loving people and so full of joy and compassion.
I met Joy first, looking for someone to help me out with a quilt contact in Oso, Joy's son in Texas was raising money for a family, I contacted him and within minutes Joy and I were on the phone talking and making plans.
The first trip up there, we met at the local Dairy Queen parking lot and with Joy was Irma, a spunky woman who lights up when she is talking to you like you are family and with these three women, you feel like family.
Joy and Irma were our guides that day (myself and Tomboy granddaughter). Our first stop was at the local funeral home who were part of burying those gone. The look on the funeral director's face was of shock and surprise as I don't think anyone had ever thought of what they go through during these times, burying so many.
The Marysville fire department was next and a few tears from those men when they realized the quilts were for them and their brothers and sisters that were first on scene. Without knowing it I was told my hands formed a heart. Maybe it because as a retired dispatcher I have so much love in my heart for first responders.
We then drove to Oso and dropped off quilts for survivors and fire personnel. Joy had been there the week prior and dropped off a bunch at that time as well as dropping off enough quilts for every chaplain that got on scene and remained. We need to always remember those first responders whether they be volunteers or not.
We then continued our drive up through the devastation and to say I cried most of the way, while granddaughter took photos is an understatement, my heart was torn up.
These people will never rebuild, they will never get their lives back the way they were a week, day or even minutes before the mountain came sliding down. Many I am told, have left the area for lack of housing availability or pain.
We were able to have lunch this first day with Pastor Sandy at the Darrington UMC, a tiny church consisting of mainly older parishoners, but with a small package of joyful dynamite as a pastor, she told us about the loss, how hard it was to have to drive all the way around for jobs (employers didn't cut people any slack), and how much she was working with families and volunteers.
The granddaughter walked away that day with an understanding of how lives can be changed in a blink of an eye and she wrote a paper about it.
The quilts kept arriving, we kept rearranging the house to make more room. Tons of infant and baby quilts arrived and we delivered those that were requested, but the population up in Oso didn't have that many little ones, so we donated a box full to Quilts of Compassion right after the tornadoes hit this year. We knew they would have a huge need and we wanted to bless others as well.
When we were leaving the church, Pastor Sandy and Irma began talking chickens. Seems that these two ladies raise chickens and when they get together, well, lets just say Joy calls them the crazy chicken ladies!
The next trip up two weeks later, I took Diva girl and we delivered to the Arlington PD who were also on scene and lost family friends. Remember, Oso is the mid-point between Arlington and Darrington and it cut many people off!
These men and women were very excited when the quilts came in and thank you to the officers and my diva girl for carrying them in for me. The quilt they chose to hold up reminds me that this tragedy will never dim their resolve to move forward!
We delivered more to the Arlington Fire Department:
These men were so amazed that we were bringing them gifts, but they were so happy to stop for a few minutes and talk to us about Oso.
We also delivered more to the funeral home in Arlington that took care of family and friends they grew up with and came to love and even for them who deals with death, this was different.
Another amazing women I met was Jana Hecla who had been reaching out and helping since day one and if you have never met the Ever Ready Bunny, let me tell you this it she! From dawn to deep into the night, Jana drove her and her granddaughter non-stop to pick up supplies, food, over the mountain into Seattle, it didn't matter if they had a need Jana was there! On this day, she received a quilt for herself and her granddaughter. She cried, only this time, I told her...'no tears, I didn't want my mascara to run!'
By this time, I knew the routine to get over the mountain to Darrington and we arrived in line just in time to go with the caravan. We met up with a couple from Pastor Sandy's church to drop off more quilts and then to the community center to drop off 65 handmade fleece blankets.
We were starving and were told Burger Barn made the best burgers and shakes in Darrington. We found out later they are the O N L Y burger place in Darrington so they would make the best. They were fantastic and got us food in time to get us back over the mountain.
We knew we were going to make another trip to volunteer at the Oso Caring fund raiser, but this time we were not only giving quilts but our time.
The picture above is myself with one of the volunteers that showed up to help at The Hub and was there everyday, she gave us a tour, talked about reaching out and helping others, it was an amazing thing to know so many people care! Of course the oldest grand wanted in on it as well!
Our delivery this day was for a specific number of quilts that were going directly to survivors! I didn't want to leave. During times like these I always want to be involved and help where I can!
This lady is a local fire volunteer and came up to thank me for the quilts and all we did to let everyone know they were loved! I explained this is NOT me, this is God's ministry and I have a quilting army that went beyond my wildest dreams!
The area has changed. There will be no more homes built, the mountain I am hearing will probably slide again one day and when it does, my prayer is no one will be in the area.
Saturday, once again we made the trip back up to Darrington, this time for a picnic we had been invited to and for a surprise for Pastor Sandy who in spite of what people believe about the area...is still working to help families and friends, still counseling the survivors and volunteers, still daily driving for miles to reach people.
This time, thanks to Sue of The Magpie's Nest in Mt. Vernon, Pastor Sandy was getting her own quilt, one with chickens on it and this time, she wasn't going to be able to say no...
I couldn't show these before because I was concerned somehow someone would find them and show Pastor Sandy, but Sue did an amazing job and you can find out more about Sue at:
Sewing Magpie blog, so stop by and tell her Jean from Layers of Hope sent you over to say hello!
On our way up, we stopped in Marysville, at the DQ again only we were picking up quilts from a lady whose cousin lives in Texas, but brought her out the quilts on a visit to be picked up by myself.
These beautiful quilts or handsome since they are all for males were made by the San Antonio Modern Quilt Guild and the one I am holding was made by Sarah Jimenez, who contacted me to let me know where I could pick them up!
Karen and her dog lucky are just another two wonderful and amazing people/animals I can add to this journey of those I would love to sit and visit with for hours!
Oh how I wish this picture really captured the sheer joy and squeals that came out of this amazing lady of God when she turned this quilt over and realized it was full of chickens. I thought she was going to hug all the air out of me, she was so happy.
This is what this ministry is about, this is what all of you are about, bringing joy and warmth to people during their darkest hours, in the midst of pain and shock and confusion, you are reaching out and bringing a piece of home to them, you are giving them something they can start a new chapter of their life with and it matters!
I cannot possibly hug all of you, but if I could, I would and someday I want to take a journey to meet some of you and share an hour of your life to let you know that:
You Matter! You Make a Difference! You Touch Lives and Hearts!
Through all their loss and pain, you let them know people care, strangers care and the world is not all full of the bad news we see everyday.
These are the faces of tragedy, but they are also the faces of resolve and hope. The yellow ribbons no longer line the bridge to Oso, the fire department is no longer full of people, but the people are moving forward.
Please, we have a great need for quilts for the Washington Wildfire families, look at these faces and know you do make a difference and reach out.
Quilts can be sent to me:
Jean Kester 18740 Ivan Street SW Rochester, WA 98579